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Facebook to ban anti-vaxxer ads, but not related content

Facebook will ban ads that discourage people from getting vaccinated.

In a marked departure from previous hands-off policy, Facebook will ban ads that discourage people from getting vaccinated. Facebook already bans ads spreading vaccine misinformation but did allow ads expressing opposition to vaccines if they did not contain false claims. That loophole will now be closed to avoid undermining a flu vaccination public health campaign.

Facebook takes a tougher line on anti-vaxxers

  • Facebook is getting tougher on fringe campaigners working to undermine the use of medical vaccinations.

  • The social network has announced an outright ban on ads which discourage people from getting inoculated, but has stopped short of silencing anti-vaxxers and related conspiracy theorists entirely.

  • As such, anti-vaccine content and debate will still be permitted within individual news feeds and broader groups.

  • The toughened stance extends a prior ban on adverts touting vaccine hoaxes and is expected to be backed up by stringent enforcement within a matter of days.

  • The volte-face amounts to a U-turn from chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who has previously positioned himself as a champion of free speech.

  • Facebook makes a clear distinction between paid-for content and user-generated content, arguing that it holds the responsibility to manage adverts while individuals are best placed to curate what appears on their news feeds.

Why it matters

  • Medical misinformation is running rampant online – despite the majority of anti-vaccine adverts being traced to just two individuals.

  • Such messaging has raised glaring brand safety issues for companies operating within Facebook’s walled garden, with numerous companies finding themselves inadvertently associated with conspiracy theories.

  • Facebook has also faced mounting pressure from governments and public health groups to act against misinformation, especially anti-vaccine and Holocaust denial content.

  • Zuckerberg finally agreed to ban content denying or distorting the facts of the Holocaust on Monday, after being presented with ’data showing an increase in antisemitic violence’.

  • Facebook has also been busy banning content from QAnon conspiracy theorists, while also blocking political ads from 3 November to prevent the spread of misinformation following the US presidential election.

  • The network is also promoting vaccinations for established flu strains and is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef.

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