Facebook under pressure to halt rise of anti-vaccination groups

Mar 1, 2019 by

Experts are calling on company to counter closed groups where members can post misinformation without challenge

Facebook is under pressure to stem the rise of anti-vaccination groups spreading false information about the dangers of life-saving vaccines while peddling unfounded alternative treatments such as high doses of vitamin C.

So-called “anti-vaxxers” are operating on Facebook in closed groups, where members have to be approved in advance. By barring access to others, they are able to serve undiluted misinformation without challenge.

The groups are large and sophisticated. Stop Mandatory Vaccination has more than 150,000 approved members. Vitamin C Against Vaccine Damage claims that large doses of the vitamin can “heal” people from vaccine damage, even though vaccines are safe.

Health experts are calling on Facebook to do more to counter these echo chambers. Dr Wendy Sue Swanson, spokeswoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said: “Facebook should prioritise dealing with the threat to human health when falsehoods and misinformation are shared. This isn’t just self-harm, it’s community harm.”

Swanson recently met with Facebook strategists and raised her concerns. “Parents deserve the truth. If they are being served up something that is not true it will likely increase their levels of anxiety and fear and potentially change their uptake of vaccines, which is dangerous,” she said.

Source: Facebook under pressure to halt rise of anti-vaccination groups | Technology | The Guardian

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