WHO hails Facebook pledge to check anti-vaccine information

Henrietta Strickland
September 6, 2019

After several months of talks with the WHO, Facebook has pledged to direct its users to "accurate and reliable vaccine information in several languages" on the WHO's website, the United Nations health agency said, "to ensure that vital health messages reach people who need them the most".

Facebook, which purchased Instagram in 2012, revealed on Wednesday that popup windows will appear when Facebook and Instagram users search for vaccine-related content, tap a vaccine-related hashtag, and visit vaccine-related groups and pages.

Health authorities welcome Facebook's new feature.

Facebook said the change is part of its ongoing effort to "tackle vaccine misinformation on Facebook by reducing its distribution and providing people with authoritative information on the topic". Those outside of the United States, on the other hand, will be connected to the World Health Organization. We also removed related targeting options, like "vaccine controversies".

"We know that parents often turn to social media to access health information and connect with other parents, and it can be hard to determine what is accurate and who the credible sources of information are", the CDC added. The social media site will now only surface results about immunizations from leading public health groups, including the CDC.

The WHO says vaccines are one of the most powerful innovations in public health history and estimates that they save at least two million lives every year worldwide.

"Major digital companies have a responsibility to their customers - to ensure that they can access info about vaccines and health", the WHO mentioned in a statement.

However, in a reaction statement on Thursday, WHO's Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, stated that getting accurate information about vaccines has become imperative in the information age; adding that misinformation regarding vaccines can reverse the progress made by countries in disease prevention overtime. "It would be great to see social and search platforms come together to leverage their combined reach". Last week, Pinterest began doing the same for searches on vaccines and the measles. Now the educational pop-up windows are another step in efforts to tackle the spread of misinformation. For ad accounts that continue to violate our policies, we may take further action, such as disabling the ad account. "But when things are false, we dramatically decrease it and we show the other side of the story, and that's because the debate has to happen", she said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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