Facebook hosts ads with false vaccine info despite misinformation ban

Despite enacting rules that prohibit the spread of vaccine misinformation on its platform, Facebook currently hosts ads that falsely claim the vaccine for whooping cough, called pertussis, causes autism and other neurological disorders, according to a Jan. 8 BuzzFeed News report.

Facebook said that the ads, which are run by an alternative medicine company named Earthley, represent "no violation," of its policies, according to the report. The social media giant provided the following statement to BuzzFeed News: "Facebook does not have a policy that bans advertising on the basis that it expresses opposition to vaccines. Our policy is to ban ads containing vaccine misinformation."

In September, Facebook rolled out a new feature that supports educational pop-up windows that appear on the social medical platform when a user searches for vaccine-related content.

The company's ad policy claims it prohibits ads that have been "debunked by third-party fact checkers or, in certain circumstances, claims debunked by organizations with particular expertise." Facebook's policy specifically cites "ads which include misinformation about vaccines as identified and verified by global health organizations," as an example of the type of ad that is banned from its platform.

The whooping cough vaccine is safe, and the impact the false ad can have on social media is dangerous, said Pete Hotez, MD, a pediatrics professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

"The vaccine is safe, it does not cause autism, does not cause all the other things that they talk about. It's highly protective, and could save your child’s life," he said.

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