Facebook is taking new action against anti-vaxxers.
The social networking giant announced on Thursday that it will, from now on, reject ads that spread misinformation about vaccines.
They also announced that another aim is to reduce the rank of groups and pages that share hoaxes so they will no longer show up in search recommendations or predictions.
Instead, Facebook is working to implement a plan by which accurate information about vaccines from expert organisations will appear at the top of search results.
The move follows testimony from earlier this week by an Ohio teen who inoculated himself against his mother’s wishes due to her anti-vax stance. While on trial, he told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labour and Pensions that he attributes his mother’s anti-vaccine ideology entirely to anti-vaxxer groups she interacted with on Facebook.
“I feel like if my mom didn’t interact with that information, and she wasn’t swayed by those arguments and stories, it could’ve potentially changed everything,” he told the committee.
“My entire family could’ve been vaccinated.”
As a result of the growing scepticism around vaccines, world health organisations said last year that reported cases of measles around the world increased by nearly a third in 2017.
While anti-vaccination organisations grow stronger in numbers – based on false claims that injections are toxic and/or can cause autism – Facebook has taken it upon themselves to remove themselves from the narrative.
Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president for global policy management, told reporters on Thursday, “People want to talk about health when they come to Facebook, and we want to make sure we are protecting that space for people.”
Facebook, which has also sought to root out “fake news” in its midst, says that users will still be able to express their opinions about whether or not they want to vaccinate their children.
“We want those conversations to happen,” Bickert said. “But if they’re sharing a specific hoax, that’s when we’ll take action.”