The anti-vaxxers (people opposing vaccination) ‘movement’ is fast emerging as a major challenge for public health worldwide. Though the study anti-vaxxers cite has been thoroughly discredited, the belief that vaccination has harmful effects is taking root quite surely in the developed world. This has happened to such an extent that cases of measles have risen by 50% and a measles outbreak is raging in the Pacific North West. Thus, Facebook considering demoting or even removal of anti-vaccination posts and groups on its platform is an important move in the fight for sanity and science with regards to vaccination.
To be sure, Facebook and other social media and search services have helped the anti-vaxxers’ cause by providing them a platform to churn out propaganda to recruit naïve, uniformed parents to their cause. The Guardian reports that Facebook search results “for groups and pages with information about vaccines” threw up mostly anti-vaccination propaganda, and YouTube’s recommendation algorithm “steers viewers from fact-based medical information toward anti-vaccine misinformation.” In 2015, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had called out anti-vaxxers, stating in a Facebook post, “The science is clear: vaccinations work and are important for the health of every one in our community”. Though studies show vaccine refusal isn’t as virulent as widely believed—Samantha Vaderslott, a post-doctoral researcher at Oxford, pegs this at 2% in the US—nipping the evil in the bud, as Facebook is setting out to, is desirable.