Facebook to Ban Ads Discouraging Vaccines -- Update
By Sarah E. Needleman
Facebook Inc. said it would ban ads that discourage
immunization, part of a broader effort to combat misinformation
about health vaccinations in the coronavirus pandemic.
The tech giant has previously faced criticism from health
professionals and users that it failed to curb the spread of false
claims about the safety and importance of vaccines on its
Last year, Facebook pledged to ban ads that include
misinformation about vaccines and tweak its algorithms so pages
that share such content would no longer be recommended.
But the company later acknowledged it had failed to remove paid
ads from a prominent antivaccination group that suggested unethical
doctors conspired to hide evidence of alleged harm to children from
Facebook's new initiative includes cracking down on ads that
explicitly discourage people from getting a vaccine, the company
said in a blog post. It said it would begin preventing such ads
from appearing on its flagship platform and Instagram over the next
Ads that advocate for or against legislation or government
policies around vaccines, including those developed for Covid-19,
would still be allowed. Advertisers would still need to first get
authorization to show such ads, and the ads would display a "paid
for by" label so users could see who is behind them.
"We regularly refine our approach around ads that are about
social issues to capture debates and discussions around sensitive
topics happening on Facebook," the company said, adding that
vaccines are no different. "While we may narrow enforcement in some
areas, we may expand it in others."
Facebook, which reported 2.7 billion monthly users as of June
30, also said it would launch an information campaign on the flu
vaccine, with a tool for finding the nearest location in the U.S.
to get it, as well as work with global health groups such as the
World Health Organization on efforts to increase immunization
The spread of misinformation has been a problem for social-media
companies in recent years as they grapple with how to police
content. Most recently they have turned their attention to groups
determined to undermine the U.S. presidential election and downplay
the severity of the coronavirus crisis.
Last week, Facebook and Twitter both moved to place limits on
posts by President Trump in which he claimed the coronavirus isn't
as deadly as the common flu. But such moves and others have opened
them up to complaints from users of censorship and political bias,
with content-moderation processes deemed too opaque and
With its new focus on the flu vaccine, Facebook said it is
looking to help put an end to the coronavirus pandemic. "While
public health experts agree that we won't have an approved and
widely available Covid-19 vaccine for some time, there are steps
that people can take to stay healthy and safe," the company said.
"That includes getting the seasonal flu vaccine."
The share of Americans who say they would get vaccinated for the
coronavirus has declined sharply since earlier this year, according
to a September survey from Pew Research Center. Some 51% of U.S.
adults said they would definitely or probably get a vaccine to
prevent the coronavirus if it were available today, while 49% said
the opposite, the findings show. That represents a 21
percentage-point drop from May in intent to get a vaccination
against the virus, Pew said.
Write to Sarah E. Needleman at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 13, 2020 15:18 ET (19:18 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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