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Facebook shoots down Pages, ads sharing vaccine misinformation

Tired of vaccine myths in your newsfeed? Facebook is making them less prominent. On Thursday, March 7, Facebook shared a list of changes focused on fighting vaccine misinformation on the platform. Like “news” proven false by third-party platforms, Facebook will make debunked vaccine myths less prominent in the news feed.

The changes apply to what Facebook describes as “verifiable vaccine hoaxes,” recognized by organizations like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization (WHO). Pages and Groups sharing these hoaxes, the platform says, will be penalized in the News Feed.

Facebook says it will limit the reach of Pages and Groups that are sharing vaccine misinformation. The Page’s ranking will be reduced in both the news feed and search, which means the posts will appear further down in the feed. The Pages and Groups also won’t pop up in the recommendations as users type into the search box.

When users do come across a post containing a verified vaccine hoax, Facebook says they are exploring additional options to share educational information. While Facebook has not said exactly what this could look like, the platform currently suggests related articles from sources like Snopes on articles that have been proven false.

The changes also apply to Facebook ads. The company says they will reject ads that include misinformation about vaccines. Targeting options like “vaccine controversies” have also been removed from the platform, which means advertisers can no longer specifically target users that have shown interest in vaccine controversies.

Finally, Facebook says they won’t show or recommend vaccine misinformation on Instagram Explore or Instagram’s hashtag pages.

Discussion about vaccines seems to have surged on social media after several areas have reported measles outbreaks, a vaccine-preventable disease. A recent study confirmed — again — that vaccines have no scientific link to autism.

While Facebook is working to reduce the spread of false information proven by reputable third parties like WHO, similar moves, like reducing the spread of fake news, have some critics questioning free speech on the network and Facebook’s role in determining what users see in the news feed and what they don’t.

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