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Facebook’s Health Crackdown: Brainstorm Health

July 2, 2019, 11:21 PM UTC

Good afternoon, readers! (The 4th of July weekend is almost upon us, we’ll make it.)

Facebook has, for a variety of reasons, become a central target for privacy, media, and health care watchdog organizations alike. The company announced Tuesday that it’s making moves to mitigate its own role in perpetuating false health information via its platform.

“We know that people don’t like posts that are sensational or spammy, and misleading health content is particularly bad for our community. So, last month we made two ranking updates to reduce (1) posts with exaggerated or sensational health claims and (2) posts attempting to sell products or services based on health-related claims,” the social media giant wrote in a blog post.

Just how will Facebook go about that effort? For one, the company said it will home in on “phrases that were commonly used in these posts to predict which posts might include sensational health claims or promotion of products with health-related claims, and then showing these lower in News Feed.”

Facebook, Google, and other tech giants have come under pressure to control the rampant scientific and health misinformation spread via their various platforms. Facebook, specifically, has been cited as a breeding ground for unfounded anti-vaccine skepticism in an era of resurgent infectious diseases which were once thought to be under control.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


The "Year of the Digital Health IPO?" Following a blockbuster year for digital health VC funding (an all-time high both globally and in the United States), exits in the field are heating up and could rack up some records of their own, according to a new report from Rock Health. The firm found that some $4.2 billion in cash flowed to digital health companies in the first half of 2019—and with no signs of an investment bubble, to boot. "Looking at the 10 past and five projected digital health IPO companies between 2011 and 2019, these companies raised an average of $199M and went public at an average age of 9.4 years," wrote the authors. "This contrasts with the frothy dotcom days where companies like raced to IPO just after its first birthday (and to its grave at about the same pace)." (Rock Health)


Gottlieb responds to Warren's attacks on his new Pfizer role. The Democratic presidential hopeful field has made no bones about casting pharmaceutical companies as public enemies—few more than Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a longtime pharma gadfly. Warren received a bit of a political gift in recent weeks when former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb joined Pfizer's board after, what even many of Gottlieb's supporters noted, was an unusually short period of time for a regulator. She said the decision "smacks of corruption" and called on Gottlieb to resign the position. Gottlieb decided to fight fire with ice. His take? "While I was at FDA, I had a productive relationship with Senator Warren, working together to advance shared public health goals. I respect the Senator, and I will respond to her letter that I received today from reporters promptly, directly, and privately," he wrote in a tweet.


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