Facebook cracks down on fraudulent miracle cures, vaccine misinformation

Facebook said Tuesday that it plans to to fight sensational health claims, supposed miracle cures, and fake health news by de-prioritizing content around those topics in the News Feed.

Travis Yeh, a product manager at the social network, wrote that the policy will focus on health topics that exaggerate or mislead users, such as claims about a “miracle cure” for deadly diseases. The new rules will also crack down on promoting products that have health-related claims, such as weight loss pills. 

“We know that people don’t like posts that are sensational or spammy, and misleading health content is particularly bad for our community,” Yeh wrote.

The announcement came in the wake of a Wall Street Journal story claiming both Facebook and YouTube were overrun with fraudulent miracle cures for cancer and other illnesses. If the new update works correctly, you should see less of those types of posts when browsing Facebook.

While Tuesday’s announcement did not mention anti-vaccination content, Facebook told Digital Trends that any exaggerated or misleading health claims about vaccines would be part of the crackdown.

Facebook did not respond to our questions about whether multi-level marketing companies that sell health products not approved the the Food and Drug Administration would be de-prioritized as well.

Facebook announced a commitment to tackling vaccine misinformation in March, with updates to the platform that banned anti-vaccination ads and reduced rankings of the movement’s groups and pages.

The updated also took away access to fundraising tools for content that includes misinformation about vaccinations.

According to the Wall Street Journal, as of the end of May, Facebook was still running paid ads promoting vaccine harm. Instagram was also recommending anti-vaccine content to users. 

“Leading global health organizations, such as the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have publicly identified verifiable vaccine hoaxes,” Facebook wrote in March. “If these vaccine hoaxes appear on Facebook, we will take action against them.” 

There have been at least 1,095 cases of measles so far this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of the people who came down with the highly infectious disease were unvaccinated. The spike in cases comes as misinformation about vaccines has spread across social media.

Aside from Facebook, Twitter is fighting vaccine misinformation by prompting users who search for vaccine-rated keywords to get accurate information at vaccines.gov. 

“At Twitter, we understand the importance of vaccines in preventing illness and disease and recognize the role that Twitter plays in disseminating important public health information,” a blog post from May states. 

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