Researchers said the results surprised them. Much of the anti-vaccine content published on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter may appear to be organic, grassroots discussions led by neighborhood groups and concerned parents, said David Broniatowski, associate professor of technical management at George Washington University, and one of the authors of the new study.
"The fact is," said Broniatowski, who studies group decisions, "what we see is a small number of motivated interests trying to spread highly harmful content." The small group of anti-vaccine ad buyers used the ads successfully to reach targeted audiences. [1
9659002] The study was conducted before Facebook changed its policy on anti-vaccine advertising, but researchers said it provides a look at how the platform has been used to spread misinformation, and it also provides a baseline for researchers to evaluate how well Facebook's new policy is working, Amelia Jamison said , a social science researcher at the University of Maryland and another study author.
The Vaccine journal is the first to study anti-vaccine ads in Facebook's advertising archive. The platform, a publicly available and searchable archive, was introduced by Facebook 2018 to improve the transparency associated with certain forms of advertising that are considered "national in importance else. "The social media giant has repeatedly come under fire for allowing the marketing of anti-vaccine materials
In recent years, false claims on social media about vaccines have led to growing numbers of parents abolishing or delaying getting their children vaccinated. . Misinformation and skepticism about the safety of measles-mumps and rubella vaccines contributed significantly to the nearly year-long measles outbreak in the United States, which ended in October. The potentially fatal disease increased to 1,261 cases this year, the highest number in nearly three decades. Anti-vaccine activists also spread misinformation about vaccine-preventing diseases, which neglected their danger.
Earlier this year, The Post reported on a wealthy man in Manhattan who has emerged as major financiers of the anti-vaccine movement. Hedge fund manager and philanthropist Bernard Selz and his wife, Lisa, have contributed more than $ 3 million in recent years to a handful of activists who have played a major role in the anti-vaccine movement.
Another major player in the field of anti-vaccine publicity and support is Attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a nephew of President John F. Kennedy, who runs the Children's Health Defense, which is closely aligned with the World Mercury Project. The group's overall message falsely claims that vaccines contribute to a large number of childhood diseases. In May, Kennedy was publicly criticized by his brother, sister and niece who said he has helped "spread dangerous misinformation on social media and is an accomplice in disbelieving the science behind vaccines."
The Stop Mandatory Vaccination group is led by Larry Cook, who calls himself "an advocate for natural living." On his website, Cook says he uses donations to pay for Facebook advertising, among other expenses, including his personal bills. "All donations to me go directly to me and to my bank account," he writes on the site. Many ads that his group funded contained stories of infants who were allegedly harmed by vaccines, researchers found.
Broniatowski and colleagues at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University searched Facebook's Ad Archive, now called the Ad Library, for vaccine-related ads for two time periods: December, 2018 and February this year. Of 309 relevant ads, 163 were pro-vaccines and 145 were anti-vaccines. The messages promoting vaccination did not have a common or organized theme or financier. They focused on trying to get people vaccinated against a specific disease, such as ads for a flu vaccine clinic, or were part of the Gates Foundation's campaign against polio, for example.
Despite a similar number of advertisements, there were 83 different groups promoting vaccinations, while five groups accounted for 75 percent of anti-vaccine messages. The two main ones were the World Mercury Project and Stop Mandatory Vaccination.
Many advertisements about vaccine removed by Facebook, researchers found, because first-time buyers failed to fill in the necessary information that revealed their funding. It unintentionally ends to delete scientific information.
"So people are not being penalized for the content but for not knowing this platform," Broniatowski said. It creates a bias for organizations with more resources and knowledge of Facebook's advertising, he said, pointing to the two groups that fund the majority of anti-vaccine messages. "They are very, very, very used to this platform, and know how to use it effectively."
An advertisement from the Utah Cancer Control Program, for example, on cancer prevention with the HPV vaccine, was taken down by Facebook because it had an incomplete disclaimer about its funding, researchers found.
Facebook's decision to categorize vaccines as a matter of "national importance" also shapes the issue as a debate rather than one where there is broad general agreement and scientific consensus, researchers said.
In March, after increasing public pressure, Facebook announced that it would reject ads that include "vaccine misinformation" as part of a broader breakdown of vaccine conspiracy theories on the platform and would block ads containing fake content about vaccines .
"We tackle Facebook vaccine misinformation by reducing its distribution and connecting people with authoritative information from subject matter experts," says a Facebook spokesman. "We partner with leading public health organizations, such as the World Health Organization, which have publicly identified vaccine waxes – if these hoaxes are displayed on Facebook, we will take action against them – including rejecting ads."