Facebook to crack down on ads that discourage vaccines

Facebook announced a new policy that prohibits advertisements on the platform that discourage people from getting vaccines, as part of a new effort to encourage people to get flu shots amid the COVID-19 pandemic.



a sign on the screen: The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone in this picture illustration taken Dec. 2, 2019.


© Johanna Geron/Reuters, File
The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone in this picture illustration taken Dec. 2, 2019.

“We don’t want these ads on our platform,” Kang-Xing Jin, the company’s head of health and Rob Leathern, the director of product management, said in a blog post Tuesday.

The post added that while they already don’t allow ads featuring vaccine hoaxes, “Now, if an ad explicitly discourages someone from getting a vaccine, we’ll reject it.”

MORE: More people engage with verifiably false news outlets on Facebook now than in 2016

Moreover, the social media giant announced the launch of a new campaign to provide information about flu vaccines to users, and pledged to work with “global health partners on campaigns to increase immunization rates,” Jin and Leathern said.



a close up of a sign: The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone in this picture illustration taken Dec. 2, 2019.


© Johanna Geron/Reuters, File
The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone in this picture illustration taken Dec. 2, 2019.

This effort comes as health authorities urge people to prioritize getting a flu shot this year to both prevent twin infections of the flu and coronavirus and to minimize the potential strain on resources amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Facebook’s policy, however, stops short of banning posts or other types of content on the platform that discourages vaccines. It also does not ban political ads that “advocate for or against legislation or government policies around vaccines — including a COVID-19 vaccine,” Jin and Leathern wrote.

“We’ll continue to require anyone running these ads to get authorized and include a ‘Paid for by’ label so people can see who is behind them,” the blog post stated.

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Facebook bans ads discouraging vaccines

Facebook on Tuesday announced a ban on ads that discourage people from getting vaccinated, in light of the coronavirus pandemic which the social media giant said has “highlighted the importance of preventive health behaviors.”

“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 in a statement.

The platform has already banned disinformation and scams as identified by public health institutions like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

It will continue to allow advertisements either pushing for or against government regulations linked to vaccinations.

And it plans to launch a public information campaign in the United States pushing for people to get vaccinated against seasonal flu.

Coronavirus vaccines are expected to be key to moving beyond the pandemic and several labs are currently working on developing the shots.

The United States has pre-ordered millions of doses of vaccines currently under development by Pfizer and Moderna, but also from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax and Sanofi, in order to ensure swift delivery from whichever one makes the breakthrough first.

The tech giants have regularly been accused of allowing anti-vaccine movements to flourish.

According to US health authorities, the number of children who make it to age two without any vaccination has reached more than 0.9 percent among kids born in 2011 and 1.3 percent among those born in 2015. 

And the number of applications for vaccine exemptions rose in the year 2017-2018 in the US for the third year in a row. 

Yet a major study of more than 650,0000 Danish children who were followed for more than a decade came to the same conclusion as several previous studies: the vaccine against mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) carries no risk of causing autism in children, contrary to a theory advocated by anti-vaccine activists.

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Facebook says it will finally ban anti-vaccination ads

  • Facebook said Tuesday it is launching a new global policy that bans ads that discourage people from getting vaccines.
  • The company previously had a policy against vaccine hoaxes that were publicly identified by global health organizations. 
  • Facebook will still allow ads that advocate for or against legislation of government policies around vaccines, including the Covid-19 vaccine. 



graphical user interface, application: Facebook's new campaign for flu shots.


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Facebook’s new campaign for flu shots.

Facebook said Tuesday it is launching a new global policy that bans ads that discourage people from getting vaccines. The company previously had a policy against vaccine hoaxes that were publicly identified by global health organizations. 

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“Now, if an ad explicitly discourages someone from getting a vaccine, we’ll reject it,” the company’s head of health, Kang-Xing Jin, and its director of product management, Rob Leathern, said in a blog post Tuesday. 

The new ban comes amid a series of policy changes announced by the company to rid its social networks of problematic content it had previously been hesitant to remove. This includes a ban on Holocaust denialism announced earlier this week, a prohibition on pages and groups espousing the QAnon conspiracy theory last week, a temporary ban on political ads following the Nov. 3 U.S. election, a ban last month on any ads that seek to delegitimize the results of the U.S. election, and a decision last month to stop the spread of groups on its social network that focus on giving users health advice.

Facebook will still allow ads that advocate against government policies around vaccines, including the Covid-19 vaccine. 

For instance, Facebook said it would allow ads like the ones a state delegate candidate in Virginia launched in August, which included the language “STOP FORCED CORONAVIRUS VACCINATIONS! … All medications have risks, and we believe discussion alone of mandating a vaccine before it’s released, without knowing if there’s long term side effects, is both premature and dangerous.”



graphical user interface, text: Ad run by Isaiah Knight on Facebook.


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Ad run by Isaiah Knight on Facebook.

However, ads that explicitly discourage vaccines — including portraying them as ineffective or unsafe, among other things — will be banned.

“If an ad that advocates for/against legislation or government policies explicitly discourages a vaccine, it will be rejected,” a spokesperson wrote CNBC. “That includes portraying vaccines as useless, ineffective, unsafe or unhealthy, describing the diseases vaccines are created for as harmless, or the ingredients in vaccines as harmful or deadly.”    

The blog post also outlined the platform’s plans to direct people with general information about the flu vaccine and how to get it, using its “Preventive Health” tool. 

It also said it’s working with the World Health Organization and UNICEF “on public health messaging campaigns to increase immunization rates.” 

However, at least one researcher suggested Facebook’s move is a case of too little, too late.

“I think a lot vaccine [hesitancy] researchers know the potential that Facebook has to promote vaccine hesitancy,” said Kolina Koltai, a vaccine researcher at the Center for an Informed Public at the University of Washington.

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Facebook will ban ads discouraging people from getting vaccines

By Elizabeth Culliford

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc will start banning ads that discourage people from getting vaccinated, the social media company said on Tuesday, as it also announced a new flu vaccine information campaign.

The company said in a blog post that ads advocating for or against legislation or government policies around vaccines, including a COVID-19 vaccine, would still be allowed.

Facebook will begin to enforce the new policy in the next few days.

Facebook, which has been under pressure from lawmakers and public health groups to crack down on anti-vaccine content and misinformation on its platform, said that although a COVID-19 vaccine would not be available for some time, the pandemic had highlighted the importance of preventative health behaviors.

Facebook’s rules prohibit ads with vaccine misinformation, but ads expressing opposition to vaccines had been allowed if they did not contain false claims.

This summer, Facebook Public Policy Manager Jason Hirsch told Reuters the company believed users should be able to express such personal views and that more aggressive censorship could push people hesitant about vaccines towards the anti-vaccine camp.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; Editing by Richard Chang)

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