As vaccination rates decline in Kentucky and elsewhere, Facebook says it will act against anti-vaccine misinformation

A healthcare provider preparing to vaccinate someone's arm

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Amid growing concern about declining vaccination rates in some states, including KentuckyFacebook says anti-vaccine misinformation “will appear less frequently across people’s News Feeds, public pages and groups, private pages and groups, search predictions, and in recommendation widgets around the site,” Ryan Broderick reports for BuzzFeed News. “Facebook’s crackdown on vaccination misinformation will also extend to Instagram. Anti-vax hashtags will no longer populate on Instagram hashtag pages, and they will be blocked from Instagram’s explore tab. . . . The announcement comes after weeks of pressure from lawmakers and public health advocates to crack down on anti-vax content.”

Facebook said March 7, “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. If these vaccine hoaxes appear on Facebook, we will take action against them.” Broderick notes, Despite the popularity of anti-vaccination misinformation, the scientific consensus is that vaccines are safe and do not cause autism.”

The proximate cause for the announcement may have been a measles outbreakin the Pacific Northwest in January. Broderick reports, “Last month, after inquiries from from BuzzFeed NewsYouTube said that it would prevent channels that promote anti-vax content from running advertising. The company said explicitly that such videos fall under its policy prohibiting the monetization of videos with ‘dangerous and harmful’ content.”

In Kentucky, youth vaccination rates dropped recently, after Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration made it easier for parents to invoke a religious exemption to the law requiring vaccination to attend school. The new rules allows parents to download a form, have it notarized and submit it to their school upon enrollment, instead of having to obtain it from their health care provider along with their signature. Spectrum News reported that the number of Kentucky parents claiming religious exemption for their school-aged children increased 59 percent between the 2016-17 school year and the 2017-18 school year, when the new rule was enacted.”

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