Facebook may remove anti-vaccine content from recommendations

Facebook said it is exploring ways to curb anti-vaccine content that's proliferated on the social network, Bloomberg reports.

Facebook has come under fire in the wake of the measles outbreak, with health experts suggesting anti-vaccine groups on the social network have contributed to the spread of misinformation. One such Facebook group, "Stop Mandatory Vaccination," has more than 150,000 members.

Google, too, has faced criticism for not cracking down on misinformation, particularly on its video-sharing website, YouTube. The first episode of a popular anti-vaccine documentary series, called "The Truth About Vaccines," has almost 1.2 million views on YouTube.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., highlighted this concern in a Feb. 14 letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

"There is strong evidence to suggest that at least part of the source of this [anti-vaccination] trend is the degree to which medically inaccurate information about vaccines surface on the websites where many Americans get their information," Mr. Schiff wrote. "The algorithms which power these services are not designed to distinguish quality information from misinformation or misleading information, and the consequences of that are particularly troubling for public health issues."

In response, Facebook told Bloomberg it is "exploring additional measures to best combat the problem." A solution might include "reducing or removing this type of content from recommendations, including Groups You Should Join, and demoting it in search results, while also ensuring that higher quality and more authoritative information is available."

Google did not immediately respond to Bloomberg's request for comment. However, the search-engine giant has taken similar measures in recent months.

In January, YouTube updated the way it promotes videos in an effort to curtail the spread of misinformation. YouTube specified it planned to train algorithms to cut down on recommending videos that promote "phony miracle cure[s] for a serious illness, claiming the earth is flat or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11."

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