It's no secret that vaccinations are a hot topic, with some parents choosing not to immunize their children. Celebrities like Kat Von D have been scrutinized for announcing their anti-vax status, as it can often prompt the wider public to follow suit. Now, Facebook and Instagram have announced plans for educational pop-up windows to help combat the spread of anti-vaccine misinformation. According to CNN, these boxes will appear on the platforms when a user searches for "vaccine-related content, visits vaccine-related Facebook groups and pages, or taps a vaccine-related hashtag on Instagram."
Those making searches in the U.S. will see a link to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prompting them to visit the website for "credible information on vaccines." Those in other countries will be directed to the World Health Organization. CDC is among the first to praise the social media giants for taking steps to limit the spread of damaging information. Spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said it can often be difficult for parents to figure out what's real and credible and what isn't, but fighting against "vaccine myths and misinformation is a shared responsibility."
This move comes after four European countries have lost their measles-free status in recent months, thanks in part to parents not vaccinating their children. The World Health Organization's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus released a written statement this week, explaining, "Many debilitating and deadly diseases can be effectively prevented by vaccines." He went on to say that online platforms have a responsibility to provide access to "facts about vaccines and health."
Facebook and Instagram are one of several huge media companies to concentrate their efforts on this subject. Earlier this year, Amazon decided to scrap all anti-vaccine documentaries from its streaming services, while YouTube removed ads that promoted anti-vaccines. Perhaps most similar to this recent move, Pinterest previously set searches for vaccine-related content to only return approved info from public health organizations.
Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said, "When things are hate or things are violence. we take them down. But, when things are false, we dramatically decrease it and we show the other side of the story, and that's because the debate has to happen." According to Sandberg, the only way to conquer falsities is to educate.