Online vaccine misinformation a 'public health crisis,' physician warns social media CEOs

The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics sent letters to the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Pinterest warning of the public health threats posed by the spread of anti-vaccination misinformation on their platforms.

"Our worst fears are being realized as measles outbreaks spread across the country," warned Kyle Yasuda, MD, on the organization's website. "I reached out to the technology industry with an urgent request to work together to combat the dangerous spread of vaccine misinformation online."

Some companies have taken action to address vulnerabilities in their platforms that have allowed the spread of misinformation. Facebook said it is looking into removing anti-vaccine content from recommendations such as its "Groups You Should Join" feature.

Google created "knowledge panels" designed to promote authoritative information when medical conditions are searched. And Pinterest stopped returning search results for vaccination-related terms.

Dr. Yasuda concluded the letter asking the CEOs to meet with his organization to collaborate on ending the spread of misinformation.

"We have an opportunity — and in my view, an obligation — to work together to solve this public health crisis," Dr. Yasuda wrote. "It will take commitments across all sectors — local and federal governments, the medical and public health community, and the technology industry — to do so."

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