Facebook announces ban on anti-vaccination ads
Facebook said that it has planned to ban ads that discourage vaccinations with an exemption for ads about government vaccine policies and non-boosted posts.
Facebook explained that it is initiating the new global policy that bans the ads discouraging people from getting vaccinated against a disease. The company initially also had a policy against vaccine frauds that were publicly identified by global health organizations.
The company’s blog post read, “If an ad that advocates for/against legislation or government policies explicitly discourages a vaccine, it will be rejected. That includes portraying vaccines as useless, ineffective, unsafe, or unhealthy, describing the diseases vaccines are created for as harmless, or the ingredients in vaccines as harmful or deadly.”
Today, with the great need for a COVID-19 vaccine, Facebook has evaluated its policies on anti-vax content and determined that it may need to do something in order to address the issue before it becomes a huge problem, once the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.
Along with this new ads policy, Facebook will actively promote vaccination through a general information campaign, and direct users to vaccination sites using its Preventive Health tool.
The blog post said, “Our goal is to help messages on the safety of vaccines reach a larger population while prohibiting ads with misinformation that could harm the health efforts of the public. We don’t want these ads on our platform.”
The blog post further talked about Facebook working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF on public health messaging campaigns to increase the immunization rates.
There are still a number of ads from anti-vaccination groups running on the platform currently. However, Facebook says it will begin enforcing the new policy “over the next few days.” The anti-vaccination groups themselves will continue to be allowed on the platform — organic or unpaid content discouraging vaccination is still permitted, per Facebook’s platform rules.
The move also comes at the time for the ongoing pandemic. Public trust in a COVID-19 vaccine has fallen to alarmingly low levels, likely driven by President Trump’s recurring references to an imminent vaccine to be released before Election Day. In May, about 70 percent of Americans said they would take a vaccine if it will be available; by September that number dropped down to 50 percent.
However, some experts were skeptical about the move. Some reports have also specifically identified Facebook as a key facilitator in the spread of health misinformation, including COVID-19 conspiracy theories.
The Anti-vax sentiment is already a big problem. Back in June, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US, had said that America will face significant challenges in eradicating COVID-19 due to a general anti-science, anti-authority, anti-vaccine feeling among some people.