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Facebook takes a tougher line on anti-vaxxers

  • Facebook is getting tougher on fringe campaigners working to undermine the use of medical vaccinations.

  • The social network has announced an outright ban on ads which discourage people from getting inoculated, but has stopped short of silencing anti-vaxxers and related conspiracy theorists entirely.

  • As such, anti-vaccine content and debate will still be permitted within individual news feeds and broader groups.

  • The toughened stance extends a prior ban on adverts touting vaccine hoaxes and is expected to be backed up by stringent enforcement within a matter of days.

  • The volte-face amounts to a U-turn from chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who has previously positioned himself as a champion of free speech.

  • Facebook makes a clear distinction between paid-for content and user-generated content, arguing that it holds the responsibility to manage adverts while individuals are best placed to curate what appears on their news feeds.


Why it matters

  • Medical misinformation is running rampant online – despite the majority of anti-vaccine adverts being traced to just two individuals.

  • Such messaging has raised glaring brand safety issues for companies operating within Facebook’s walled garden, with numerous companies finding themselves inadvertently associated with conspiracy theories.

  • Facebook has also faced mounting pressure from governments and public health groups to act against misinformation, especially anti-vaccine and Holocaust denial content.

  • Zuckerberg finally agreed to ban content denying or distorting the facts of the Holocaust on Monday, after being presented with ’data showing an increase in antisemitic violence’.

  • Facebook has also been busy banning content from QAnon conspiracy theorists, while also blocking political ads from 3 November to prevent the spread of misinformation following the US presidential election.

  • The network is also promoting vaccinations for established flu strains and is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef.