Recently, a state of emergency has 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.
Facebook, as one of the most powerful media platforms, is looking for ways on how to suppress certain anti-vaccine content and post, a move that spurred concerns on people’s right to free speech.
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.
Up until now, anti-vaccination groups have been open to Facebook by sharing and posting information against vaccines and their safety. However, there has been a rise in cases of measles and some infectious diseases across
Schiff added in the letter that there is no evidence on the claim regarding dangers of vaccinations which pose a great risk to public health.
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.
Now, Facebook has also accepted the battle against the distribution of anti-vaccination messaging on its platform.
Arthur Caplan, a professor and founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics at Nyu Langone Health in New York expressed his support over Facebook’s decision to police anti-vaccine messaging.
“They don’t have to be a platform for lying, for fearmongering, inaccuracy, especially when children are put at risk” Caplan added.
With the outbreak of measles’ cases which now spread across countries, Washington lawmakers are now weighing a bill called House Bill 1638 that tightens the state’s vaccination rules. The passing of the said mandatory vaccination bill infuriated many opposers which led to rallies and protests oustide the State Assembly.
After hearing the decision of Facebook and its management, anti-vaccination activists protested and many social media users who are against the idea said that “it takes away our freedom of speech and self-expression”.