An 18-year-old from Ohio who famously inoculated against his mother's wishes in December says he belongs to his mother's anti-vaccine ideology to a single source: Facebook.
Ethan Lindenberger, a high school leader, tested Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Work and Retirement, and underlined the importance of "credible" information. However, he said that the false and deep-rooted beliefs that his mother held – the vaccines were dangerous – were perpetuated by social media. In particular, he said she turned to anti-vaccine groups on social media for evidence supporting her point of view.
In an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday, Lindenberger said Facebook or sites that were linked to Facebook, really the only source his mother ever relied on for his anti-vaccine information.
Most importantly, Lindenberger said what impact Facebook's anti-plant society had on their family.
"I feel like my mother didn't do that" T interacts with that information, and she wasn't swept off by the arguments and stories, it could have potentially changed everything, he says. "My whole family could have been vaccinated."
Lindenberger said he believed his older siblings, who prior to Facebook, had been vaccinated. He said his younger siblings didn't.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explicitly say that there is no link between vaccines and autism and warns about incorrect information that is easily disseminated and made available online.
"I didn't agree with anything he said," Jill Wheeler, Lindenberger's mother, told the Associated Press. "They've made him the poster child for the pharmaceutical industry." Wheeler was not available for comment before this story was published.
The Washington Post has previously reported on how Facebook has served as a haven for parents who reject immunization facts. Legislators and healthcare professionals have pushed the platform on the spread of erroneous data on vaccines, specifically targeted ads and anti-vaccination materials targeted at women in regions with a large number of reports of measles.
"We've taken steps to reduce the distribution of health-related misinformation on Facebook, but we know we have more to do," Facebook said in a statement to the post last month. The platform said it was considering reducing the incidence of anti-vaccination material in search results and "Groups you should join."
Facebook came up several times in Lindenberger testimony before the congress on Tuesday.
"Does your mother get the most of her information online?" Asked Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).
"Yes … mainly Facebook," Lindenberger replied.
"And where do you get the most from your information?" Isakson asked.
"Not Facebook," Lindenberger said, laughing. "From the CDC, World Health Organization, scientific journals and also cited information from these organizations … accredited sources."
He testified that his mother had sued her anti-vaccination views throughout her life and that over time he began to notice that the benefits of vaccinations considered the perceived risks. It became clear when his mother would share videos and people would dispute their claims in the answers.
"It was really frustrating for me," Lindenberger Posten told me. "I knew if I would continue to argue and drive my stance, even if it was correct, I would not come anywhere."
In his testimony, he said that he approached his mother several times to try to betray her views. In one case, he quoted the CDC. His mother replied, "That's what they want you to think about." "
In argument with his mother, Lindenberger said she would repeatedly claim and rely on information from Facebook that had no real attribution or support conspiracy theories, including a claim that the CDC is funded by Big Pharma, which pays the agency for To run vaccines.
"She didn't trust any sources," he told the post. "She believed that vaccines were a conspiracy of government killing children."
Lindenberger said his mother is not unique and that many is swamped by information that is falsely presented on Facebook to be accurate, this basic data is often supplemented by graphs and charts that make the claims appear to be actual.
The renewed conversation on vaccines comes as a result of a re-emergence of measles – which was eliminated in United States in 2000 – accelerated by an increased number of people traveling outside the country and taking back the disease, according to CD C. The spread of measles is exacerbated by what CDC describes as "U.S. Pat. communities with pockets of unvaccinated people. "
A recent outbreak of brass in the Washington state, one of six ongoing outbreaks in the United States, has affected 71 people, the state health department. The epicenter of that outbreak is located in Clark County, an area near Portland, Ore. Baptized a "hot spot" against vaccination due to the high frequency of non-medical exemptions from necessary vaccines There have been 206 confirmed cases of measles reported in the United States, spanning 11 states, the CDC reports.
Lindenberger said Facebook must continue its pressure to crack down on erroneous data on vaccines, which in particular lets it split in a way that "looks legitimate."
"People can skim it, but it's a big problem," he told He added that there must be more clarity in purchasing and separating falsehoods from "actual scientific journals."
Taylor Telford, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Lena H. Sun contributed to this report.
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