As the public pressure for tech companies and open platforms to do a better job in fighting fake news and misinformation, Twitter seems to be the newest tech company to set up mechanisms to curb anti-vaxx in the social media stratosphere.
Starting Friday, Twitter will be directing users who actively searched for tweets related to vaccination to a post from the United States Department of Health and Human Services linking them to several reliable sources of health information instead of anti-vaccination propaganda.
“Know the facts,” the post reads. “To make sure you get the best information on vaccinations, resources are available from the US Department of Health & Human Services.”
This follows the announcement made by the social media giant that it will be launching a new tool to help fight the rampant misinformation by prompting users to head to vaccines.org, a website ran by the Department of Health and Human Services.
“We’re committed to protecting the health of the public conversation on Twitter,” the blog post read. “Ensuring individuals can find information from authoritative sources is a key part of that mission.”
The intense pressure against social media platforms and other tech companies by lawmakers and the public to remove anti-vaxx propaganda from their platforms have yielded significant response. It all started when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai regarding his concern with the technology giants which are authorizing the escalation of anti-vaccine misinformation.
His letters indicated that Facebook and Instagram are allowing, as well as, recommending messages that discourage parents from vaccinating their children. According to Schiff, this is a direct threat to public health and degraded progress in battling vaccine-preventable diseases. He also asked Zuckerberg whether distributing medically inaccurate and false information about vaccines violated the platform’s terms of service and if Facebook accepts paid advertisement from anti-vaccine activities, among others.
Facebook responded through a representative who said that the group has already taken steps to reduce the distribution of health-related misinformation and are currently working with outside experts on additional changes that will take place sooner.
Google, which also owns Youtube, has not directly responded to the letters but affirmed that it has worked to improve recommendations regarding misinformation. Schiff’s after seeing Youtube’s announcement last January which no longer recommends videos that violate its community guidelines including “content that could misinform users in harmful ways” was very pleased.
Heeding the same call, Youtube has launched several new mechanisms to discourage anti-vaccination content in their video sharing platform. The famous video-based social media network has started removing ads from anti-vaxx videos to demonetized them and discourage those who plan to leverage on the popularity of the anti-vaccine sentiment and produce contents which sell on Youtube.
Similarly, a letter has also been sent to Amazon to respond in the same manner as that of Youtube as several netizens have raised concerns that anti-vaxx publication was being advertised in the popular e-commerce site’s sponsored ads.
This time, as Twitter has its own contribution in resisting the growth of misinformation, have also taken a stand. The new tool shows up on Android, iOS, Twitter’s mobile site, and on the newly designed desktop site in the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Korea as of right now.
In the past, a similar tool was launched by Twitter to direct users actively searching for terms relating to suicide to the contact number of a hotline for help. In the blog post released by Twitter to announce the new tool, the company is planning to extend this tool to other health-related search terms soon.
“This new investment builds on our existing work to guard against the artificial amplification of non-credible content about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines,” the blog said.
The intensifying social pressure was triggered by the influx of measles outbreak and the popularity of anti-vaxx sentiments in social media that lead to the declining number of children getting vaccinated. A few months ago, a state of emergency had been officially declared in Washington due to a measles outbreak which affected 58 people, same with other Asian countries like the Philippines. Experts believe that aside from the lack of vaccination, which caused the spread of the disease, anti-vaccine movements also are to blame on the said outpour.