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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
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com
@the_sy_guy

DIGITAL HEALTH

Apple says goodbye to vaping apps on its app store. The end of an era—Apple is nixing vaping apps on from its eponymous app store for, well, pretty evident reasons. The CDC reported in its latest update on vaping-related illnesses that thousands of people have been sickened by (and at least 40 have died) from lung injuries seemingly associated with vaping. While it seems like the vast majority of these cases are associated with illicit THC products (and specifically a compound called vitamin E acetate), it's understandable that Apple wants to get out of the game for now. The company has never actually sold such products, but certain apps would have allowed users to control functions such as temperature and lighting on their vaping devices (and otherwise allowed access to vaping networks). (Axios)

INDICATIONS

Novartis wins approval for sickle cell drug. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday approved Novartis' experimental treatment for the sickle cell drug Adakveo. It's the first such medicine approved for a painful complication of the rare blood disorder called "vaso-occlusive crisis," which can cause intense bouts of pain. Novartis stock was up modestly in Friday trading. (Reuters)

REQUIRED READING

Americans to Companies: We Don't Trust You With Our Personal Databy Danielle Abril

Giphy's Toxic Content Problemby David Z. Morris

Is Silicon Valley Still the World's Greatest Wealth-Generation Machine?by Polina Marinova

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