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Facebook to crack down on ads that discourage vaccines

The social media giant, however, stopped short of banning anti-vax content.

The post added that while they already don’t allow ads featuring vaccine hoaxes, “Now, if an ad explicitly discourages someone from getting a vaccine, we’ll reject it.”

Moreover, the social media giant announced the launch of a new campaign to provide information about flu vaccines to users, and pledged to work with “global health partners on campaigns to increase immunization rates,” Jin and Leathern said.

PHOTO: The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone in this picture illustration taken Dec. 2, 2019.

The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone in this picture illustration taken Dec. 2, 2019.

Facebook’s policy, however, stops short of banning posts or other types of content on the platform that discourages vaccines. It also does not ban political ads that “advocate for or against legislation or government policies around vaccines — including a COVID-19 vaccine,” Jin and Leathern wrote.

“We’ll continue to require anyone running these ads to get authorized and include a ‘Paid for by’ label so people can see who is behind them,” the blog post stated.

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Facebook bans ads discouraging vaccines

Facebook on Tuesday announced a ban on ads that discourage people from getting vaccinated, in light of the coronavirus pandemic which the social media giant said has “highlighted the importance of preventive health behaviors.”

“While public health experts agree that we won’t have an approved and widely available Covid-19 vaccine for some time, there are steps that people can take to stay healthy and safe,” the company said in a statement.

The platform has already banned disinformation and scams as identified by public health institutions like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

It will continue to allow advertisements either pushing for or against government regulations linked to vaccinations.

And it plans to launch a public information campaign in the United States pushing for people to get vaccinated against seasonal flu.

Coronavirus vaccines are expected to be key to moving beyond the pandemic and several labs are currently working on developing the shots.

The United States has pre-ordered millions of doses of vaccines currently under development by Pfizer and Moderna, but also from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax and Sanofi, in order to ensure swift delivery from whichever one makes the breakthrough first.

The tech giants have regularly been accused of allowing anti-vaccine movements to flourish.

According to US health authorities, the number of children who make it to age two without any vaccination has reached more than 0.9 percent among kids born in 2011 and 1.3 percent among those born in 2015. 

And the number of applications for vaccine exemptions rose in the year 2017-2018 in the US for the third year in a row. 

Yet a major study of more than 650,0000 Danish children who were followed for more than a decade came to the same conclusion as several previous studies: the vaccine against mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) carries no risk of causing autism in children, contrary to a theory advocated by anti-vaccine activists.

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Facebook to ban ads that ‘explicitly’ discourage vaccine use

Oct. 13 (UPI) — Facebook said Tuesday that it will ban ads that “explicitly” discourage vaccine use, expanding on its policy to reject vaccine hoaxes.

The social media company’s head of health, Kang-Xing Jin, and Rob Leathern, director of product management, announced the ban against such ads in a joint statement.

“We already don’t allow ads with vaccine hoaxes that have been publicly identified by leading global health organizations, such as the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” they said in the joint statement. “Now, if an ad explicitly discourages someone from getting a vaccine, we’ll reject it. Enforcement will begin over the next few days.’

They added that the ban will not include ads that advocate for or against legislation or government policies around vaccines, but those ads will have to be authorized and will include a “paid for by” label for people to see who is behind them.

“If an ad that advocates for/against legislation or government policies explicitly discourages a vaccine, it will be rejected,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNBC. “That includes portraying vaccines as useless, ineffective, unsafe or unhealthy, describing the disease vaccines are created for as harmless, or the ingredients in vaccines as harmful or deadly.”

Facebook officials also said in the statement Tuesday that the social media platform will launch a new flu vaccine information campaign and work with global health partners to increase immunization rates. This work includes working with the World Health Organization and UNICEF on public messaging campaigns to increase immunization rates with such rates still being low in many parts of the world.

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Facebook says it will finally ban anti-vaccination ads

  • Facebook said Tuesday it is launching a new global policy that bans ads that discourage people from getting vaccines.
  • The company previously had a policy against vaccine hoaxes that were publicly identified by global health organizations. 
  • Facebook will still allow ads that advocate for or against legislation of government policies around vaccines, including the Covid-19 vaccine. 



graphical user interface, application: Facebook's new campaign for flu shots.


© Provided by CNBC
Facebook’s new campaign for flu shots.

Facebook said Tuesday it is launching a new global policy that bans ads that discourage people from getting vaccines. The company previously had a policy against vaccine hoaxes that were publicly identified by global health organizations. 

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“Now, if an ad explicitly discourages someone from getting a vaccine, we’ll reject it,” the company’s head of health, Kang-Xing Jin, and its director of product management, Rob Leathern, said in a blog post Tuesday. 

The new ban comes amid a series of policy changes announced by the company to rid its social networks of problematic content it had previously been hesitant to remove. This includes a ban on Holocaust denialism announced earlier this week, a prohibition on pages and groups espousing the QAnon conspiracy theory last week, a temporary ban on political ads following the Nov. 3 U.S. election, a ban last month on any ads that seek to delegitimize the results of the U.S. election, and a decision last month to stop the spread of groups on its social network that focus on giving users health advice.

Facebook will still allow ads that advocate against government policies around vaccines, including the Covid-19 vaccine. 

For instance, Facebook said it would allow ads like the ones a state delegate candidate in Virginia launched in August, which included the language “STOP FORCED CORONAVIRUS VACCINATIONS! … All medications have risks, and we believe discussion alone of mandating a vaccine before it’s released, without knowing if there’s long term side effects, is both premature and dangerous.”



graphical user interface, text: Ad run by Isaiah Knight on Facebook.


© Provided by CNBC
Ad run by Isaiah Knight on Facebook.

However, ads that explicitly discourage vaccines — including portraying them as ineffective or unsafe, among other things — will be banned.

“If an ad that advocates for/against legislation or government policies explicitly discourages a vaccine, it will be rejected,” a spokesperson wrote CNBC. “That includes portraying vaccines as useless, ineffective, unsafe or unhealthy, describing the diseases vaccines are created for as harmless, or the ingredients in vaccines as harmful or deadly.”    

The blog post also outlined the platform’s plans to direct people with general information about the flu vaccine and how to get it, using its “Preventive Health” tool. 

It also said it’s working with the World Health Organization and UNICEF “on public health messaging campaigns to increase immunization rates.” 

However, at least one researcher suggested Facebook’s move is a case of too little, too late.

“I think a lot vaccine [hesitancy] researchers know the potential that Facebook has to promote vaccine hesitancy,” said Kolina Koltai, a vaccine researcher at the Center for an Informed Public at the University of Washington.

“This

Facebook removes Trump’s post with false claims comparing the flu to COVID-19

Facebook on Tuesday removed a post from President Donald Trump that appeared to downplay the severity of COVID-19 by comparing it to the seasonal flu.



a man wearing a suit and tie: President Donald Trump walks to Marine One prior to departure from the South Lawn of the White House, Oct. 2, 2020, as he heads to Walter Reed Military Medical Center, after testing positive for COVID-19.


© Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
President Donald Trump walks to Marine One prior to departure from the South Lawn of the White House, Oct. 2, 2020, as he heads to Walter Reed Military Medical Center, after testing positive for COVID-19.

The same post remains on Twitter, though it has been hit with a label on the platform identifying it as “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.”

“Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu,” Trump wrote in the twin posts. “Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!”

A Facebook spokesperson told ABC News: “We remove incorrect information about the severity of COVID-19, and have now removed this post.”

MORE: Twitter accused of double standard with Trump death wish posts

Trump’s tweet comes just one day after he returned to the White House from the Walter Reed Medical Center where he was treated for COVID-19.



a man wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: President Donald Trump walks to Marine One prior to departure from the South Lawn of the White House, Oct. 2, 2020, as he heads to Walter Reed Military Medical Center, after testing positive for COVID-19.


© Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
President Donald Trump walks to Marine One prior to departure from the South Lawn of the White House, Oct. 2, 2020, as he heads to Walter Reed Military Medical Center, after testing positive for COVID-19.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the flu typically accounts for 12,000 to 61,000 deaths in the U.S. annually since 2010. That number has never risen above 100,000 in any year during that time period. More than 210,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 since March.

Shortly after his Facebook post was removed Tuesday, the president posted again, writing in all-caps: “REPEAL SECTION 230!!!”

His follow-up post refers to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which essentially shields online platforms from liability for content posted on their sites. Trump has previously said Section 230 provides social media behemoths “blanket immunity when they use their power to censor content and silence viewpoints that they dislike.”

This is not the first time Trump has equated the novel coronavirus to the common flu. In a March 9 tweet, the president wrote, “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”

Medical experts have long cautioned equating the seasonal flu to COVID-19, and warned the latter is a much more severe illness.

For one, COVID-19 is a novel virus, meaning much remains unknown about its path, spread and danger. Moreover, COVID-19 remains extremely dangerous because so many people show minimal or no symptoms at onset, which can potentially accelerate person-to-person transmission. The flu also

Facebook, Twitter Block Post Claiming COVID Is Less Deadly Than Flu

Social media giants Facebook and Twitter have blocked a post from President Donald Trump on Tuesday falsely claiming COVID-19 is less deadly than the flu. Facebook has removed the post, while Twitter has added a message saying it broke the rules on “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.” 

“We remove incorrect information about the severity of COVID-19,” a Facebook spokesperson told Reuters.

Trump, who is currently recovering from the virus, posted the controversial tweet early in the day.

“Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!” Trump tweeted.

According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control, 22,000 deaths were linked to the flu during the 2019 to 2020 influenza season.

Trump admitted to Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward in February that he had been intentionally downplaying COVID-19 on purpose. The recordings of the conversation were released in September and used as source material for Woodward’s latest book, “Rage.”

In the interview with Woodward, Trump said COVID-19 is “more deadly than even your strenuous flus” but admitted to downplaying the virus in order to not cause a panic. 

Trump is currently at the White House, after spending several days at Walter Reed Military Hospital to receive treatment for the virus. First lady Melania Trump, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and three Republican senators are the latest political figures to contract COVID-19.

Coronavirus cases continue to rise across the United States. As of Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET, there are nearly 7.5 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S., with the domestic death toll over 210,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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Facebook pulls Trump post for minimizing Covid-19 danger

Facebook on Tuesday removed a post by US President Donald Trump for downplaying Covid-19 danger by saying the season flu is more deadly, in a rare step against the American leader by the leading social network.

A day after checking out of a hospital where he received first-class treatment for Covid-19, Trump used Twitter and Facebook to post messages inaccurately contending that people have more to fear from the flu.

“We remove incorrect information about the severity of Covid-19, and have now removed this post,” Facebook said in reply to an AFP inquiry.

Twitter added a notice to the tweeted version of the Trump post , saying the message was left up due to public interest but that it violated rules about spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to Covid-19.

Twitter also added a link to reliable Covid-19 information.

Trump checked out of hospital Monday after four days of emergency treatment for Covid-19, pulling off his mask the moment he reached the White House and vowing to quickly get back on the campaign trail.

Shortly beforehand, Trump had tweeted that Americans, who have lost nearly 210,000 people to the pandemic, should not be afraid of the .coronavirus.

Facebook in August removed a video post by Trump in which he contended that children are “almost immune” to the coronavirus, a claim the social network called “harmful COVID misinformation.”

That was the first time the leading social network pulled a post from the president’s page for being dangerously incorrect.

Facebook faces pressure to prevent the spread of misinformation while simultaneously being accused of silencing viewpoints by calling for posts to be truthful.

Health officials have urged people of all age groups to protect themselves against exposure to the virus, saying everyone is at risk.

Trump has unleashed an array of misleading medical speculation, criticism for his own top virus expert and praise for an eccentric preacher-doctor touting conspiracy theories.

Facebook has largely held firm to a policy that it would not fact-check political leaders, but it has pledged to take down any post which could lead to violence or mislead people about the voting process.

A coalition of activists has pressed Facebook to be more aggressive in removing hateful content and misinformation, including from the president and political leaders. 

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