In its latest move against problematic content, Facebook has explicitly banned advertisements that promote anti-vaccine messages, removing a loophole that some groups had previously used to push misleading content. The new ad ban is effective globally, according to Facebook’s head of health Kang-Xing Jin, and it is joined by a new informational campaign focused specifically on the flu vaccine.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still underway, it is extra important to get the flu vaccine this year, helping reduce the number of illnesses and hospitalizations that may otherwise overload the health care system. Though the coronavirus vaccine is still months away at best, the influenza vaccine is readily available with many low-cost options.
Facebook focuses on the pandemic and flu season in its latest post, pointing out that experts are advising the public to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible. This effort is hampered by anti-vax groups that spread misinformation and disinformation related to the vaccines, including the flu vaccine, causing some people to avoid the preventative health measure out of fear.
Social media has enabled anti-vax groups to spread their propaganda far and wide, reaching an unprecedented audience. For this reason, critics and many public health officials alike have called for a crackdown on this kind of content, something Facebook has historically taken a mild, arguably inadequate approach to. That has changed in recent weeks.
Facebook’s ban on anti-vaccine advertisements comes amid a wider set of policy updates and changes that include a ban on the conspiracy theory QAnon. In its latest announcement, Facebook said this advertisement ban will specifically focus on ads that are ‘discouraging people from getting vaccinated.’ The ban will not apply to ads that may be against government policies or legislation related to vaccines, however.