The social media giant has announced that it is considering removing articles that provide anti-vaccine information from its recommendations of things to read, reports Bloomberg. The possible move comes after a rash of measles outbreaks across the world, including in Washington state and the Philippines, where 70 people—mostly children—have already died since the start of the year.
The measles outbreaks come at a time when anti-vaccine campaigners are spreading their messages across social media warning of the supposed ills of getting children vaccinated. The continued rise of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories on Facebook and Google prompted California Congressman Adam Schiff to send a letter to Sundar Pichai and Mark Zuckerberg, the CEOs of Google and Facebook, respectively, to provide medically accurate information to users:
“As a Member of Congress who is deeply concerned about declining vaccination rates, I am requesting additional information on the steps that you currently take to provide medically accurate information on vaccinations to your users, and to encourage you to consider additional steps you can take to address this growing problem. I was pleased to see YouTube’s recent announcement that it will no longer recommend videos that violate its community guidelines, such as conspiracy theories or medically inaccurate videos, and encourage further action to be taken related to vaccine misinformation . . .
“There is strong evidence to suggest that at least part of the source of this trend is the degree to which medically inaccurate information about vaccines surface on the websites where many Americans get their information,” Schiff wrote. “The algorithms which power these services are not designed to distinguish quality information from misinformation or misleading information, and the consequences of that are particularly troubling for public health issues.”
In response to the letter, Facebook said it is “exploring additional measures to best combat the problem,” and that those measures could include “reducing or removing this type of content from recommendations, including Groups You Should Join, and demoting it in search results, while also ensuring that higher quality and more authoritative information is available.”