Authors: Martha Powell, Future Science Group
The social media platform Pinterest has announced that it will introduce a new experience for vaccine-related searches, ensuring that terms such as ‘measles’ and ‘vaccine safety’ will only bring up results from public health organizations including the WHO, Centers for Disease Control (GA, USA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Last year the platform stopped showing results for vaccine-related searches in order to combat vaccine misinformation, instead the platform displayed a message that these results often breached their community guidelines. Now, vaccine-related searches will only show content from approved organizations and will not show recommendations or comments on these results. The company comment in their statement: “We’re taking this approach because we believe that showing vaccine misinformation alongside resources from public health experts isn’t responsible.”
The WHO has welcomed this move from Pinterest , commending the platform’s leadership in providing only evidence-based information about vaccination. As pressure increases to ensure accurate health information on social media, other platforms have also recently adopted some policies on vaccine misinformation. For example, Facebook has reduced the reach of groups and pages spreading “verifiable vaccine hoaxes” and Youtube moved to include anti-vaccine misinformation in a category of videos that are not recommended by its algorithm.
WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, commented: “Ultimately, there is no health for all without vaccines for all. I look forward to seeing the private sector more fully embracing the #healthforall mission and making life-saving health information more readily available to their users. And I call upon them to do more to filter out misinformation and inaccuracies that prevent people from achieving health and well-being. #VaccinesWork”
However, he did also caution that social media was only one aspect of a comprehensive approach to tackling vaccine hesitancy, and that there would also need to be efforts in building health systems that can respond to parent’s concerns.
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Sources: https://newsroom.pinterest.com/en/post/bringing-authoritative-vaccine-results-to-pinterest-search; www.who.int/news-room/detail/28-08-2019-who-director-general-statement-on-the-role-of-social-media-platforms-in-health-information
What is vaccine hesitancy?
Vaccine hesitancy refers to delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services, it is often influenced by factors such as convenience, confidence and complacency. Vaccine hesitancy is a complex phenomenon with differences in hesitancy globally, across time and across different vaccines – moreover, in 2019 the WHO stated vaccine hesitancy was one of their top ten threats to global health.
What responsibility should social media platforms take for vaccine misinformation?
The prevalence of anti-vaccination content on social media is causing great concern among public health officials and politicians, particularly as social media platforms are now a source of news and information for many individuals. Social media companies have been facing increasing scrutiny over how they moderate content on their sites, specifically, the UK government’s white paper on online harm states: “the spread of inaccurate anti-vaccination messaging online poses a risk to public health.” The challenge for social media companies comes in the argument that removing this content could limit their users’ freedom of expression, putting the companies into an ‘arbiter of truth’ role, which neither they nor most others believe they should take on. However, it is rapidly becoming clear that these companies can no longer ignore the issue. Leading to the action taken by Pinterest and others.