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Facebook Rolls Out Pop-Up Windows For Vaccine Information

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Facebook will take a stand against the dangerous practice of spreading misinformation about vaccines. The social media behemoth, which has served as an online meeting spot for spreading memes of misinformation about vaccine safety and efficacy, will now try to redirect consumers on its platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, to reputable sites for information about vaccines, as the Guardian reported.


From now on, whenever a user searches for vaccine-related information, the social network will show a card at the top of the page that urges users to obtain information from a credible source.

In the U.S. the notification will direct people to the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In other parts of the world, those same notifications will send people to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Instagram will do the same on its platform.

The move follows Pintrest, which last week shifted its policies so it only displays pins from reputable medical organizations like the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics when a user searches for vaccine-related information, as Endgadget reported.

"Major digital organizations have a responsibility to their users - to ensure that they can access facts about vaccines and health," the WHO said in a statement, as Reuters reported.

"Vaccine misinformation is a major threat to global health that could reverse decades of progress made in tackling preventable diseases," it said. Deadly infectious diseases such as measles, diphtheria, hepatitis, polio, cholera and yellow fever can all be prevented with immunization, it noted.

The CDC also praised the move by the social media companies.

"We know that parents often turn to social media to access health information and connect with other parents, and it can be difficult to determine what is accurate and who the credible sources of information are," wrote CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund in an email to CNN.

Combating "vaccine myths and misinformation is a shared responsibility and we applaud these efforts," she said.

The WHO says that immunizations save nearly 2 million lives worldwide every year. Yet, thanks to the spread of misinformation on social media platforms, there have been over 1,200 confirmed cases of measles in the U.S. in 2019. That is the highest number of cases since 1992, and particularly alarming to health officials since it is easily prevented with immunization, as Endgadget reported.

"The World Health Organization and Facebook have been in discussions for several months to ensure people will be able to access authoritative information on vaccines and reduce the spread of inaccuracies," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a written statement as CNN reported. "Major digital organizations have a responsibility to their users -- to ensure that they can access facts about vaccines and health. It would be great to see social and search platforms come together to leverage their combined reach."

A report in January, which the Guardian reported on, found that half of all UK parents of small children had been exposed to misinformation online about the side effects of vaccination. The Royal Society for Public Health called on Facebook and other social media companies to combat the scourge of misinformation.

Furthermore, a Guardian investigation earlier this year found that Facebook users were inadvertently directed by popularity algorithms to unscientific anti-vaccine propaganda.

Misinformation about vaccinations has thwarted major immunization campaigns recently, like ones to prevent polio in Pakistan and to immunize against yellow fever in South America, as Reuters reported.

The WHO said such moves by social media "must be matched by tangible steps by governments and the health sector" to promote trust in vaccinations and to respond to concerned parents, according to Reuters.

Screenshot of searching for vaccines on Facebook.

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