Facebook is officially taking a hard stance against any vaccine misinformation circulating on its platform. According to a press release, the company will begin actively "reducing [vaccine misinformation] distribution and providing people with authoritative information on the topic." Monika Bickert — Facebook's vice president of global policy management — outlined the new guidelines in an email:
- "We will reduce the ranking of groups and pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations in news feed and search. These groups and pages will not be included in recommendations or in predictions when you type into search.
- When we find ads that include misinformation about vaccinations, we will reject them. We also removed related targeting options, like 'vaccine controversies.' For ad accounts that continue to violate our policies, we may take further action, such as disabling the ad account.
- We won't show or recommend content that contains misinformation about vaccinations on Instagram Explore or hashtag pages.
- We are exploring ways to share educational information about vaccines when people come across misinformation on this topic."
Bickert also mentioned that Facebook has been working with reputable groups from the medical community, like the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), to correctly identify vaccine hoaxes floating around the internet.
"The [CDC and the WHO] have publicly listed some identifiable hoaxes around vaccines. These are things like 'vaccines cause autism,'" Bickert told POPSUGAR at Facebook's International Women's Day Conference. "Going forward, when we see those hoaxes on Facebook we're going to take action against them."
Bickert was careful to note that they're not hampering individuals' abilities to share their personal beliefs on the matter, either. "There's a distinction between allowing people to express their opinions about whether or not they're going to vaccinate their children versus actual hoaxes that the WHO and the CDC have said aren't true . . . If there's a factual assertion saying, 'vaccines cause autism' we're going to apply it [to the situation]."
If Facebook determines your page is spreading misinformation, the penalty is fairly severe.
"If a group or page admin posts this vaccine misinformation, we will exclude the entire group or page from recommendations," she said, adding that the Facebook team will also "reduce these groups' and pages' distribution in news feed and search, and reject ads with this misinformation."
This is certainly a step in the right direction!