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The Source of Facebook’s Anti-Vaccine Ads

November 15, 2019, 10:30 PM UTC

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Happy Friday, readers!

A new report finds that just two groups are responsible for the majority of anti-vaccine misinformation spread on Facebook.

The study, published in the journal Vaccine, used Facebook’s Ad Archive feature to hunt down the offenders. It was a relatively simple query—search the keyword “vaccine” in the archive between December 2018 and February 2019, and then assess whether the content was promoting, discouraging, or generally discussing vaccine use.

As it turns out, about 54% of the anti-vaccine ad content was funded by the World Mercury Project—a group chaired by noted anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—and an organization literally dubbed Stop Mandatory Vaccinations.

The researchers from the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins, and George Washington University admonished Facebook’s role in spreading the content.

“A small set of anti-vaccine advertisement buyers have leveraged Facebook advertisements to reach targeted audiences,” the wrote. “By deeming all vaccine-related content an issue of ‘national importance,’ Facebook has further politicized vaccines.”

Facebook has been juggling this kind of backlash with a number of initiatives including a tweak that points users to public health organizations like the WHO or CDC when they search for information on vaccines. But the platform’s ad structure, it seems, could continue to be a problem.

Read on for the day’s news, and have a wonderful weekend.

Sy Mukherjee


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