Facebook bans anti-vaccine ads, with some exceptions

The tech platform already does not allow ads with vaccine hoaxes

Facebook announced on Tuesday that it will ban ads that discourage people from getting a vaccine but will still allow ads that advocate for or against government policies around vaccines.

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The company said that it already bans ads with vaccine "hoaxes" that have been publicly identified by leading global health organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The company’s latest policy expands the ban to ads that discourage vaccines for any reason.

FILE: The logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square. (AP)

Ads taking a position on legislation or government policies will still have to be approved by the company as political advertisements and include a "paid for by" label on who is funding them.

The social network said it will also run an information campaign encouraging people to get their flu shots this year.

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“Public health officials recommend that most people get a flu shot every year,” the company said in a press release. “This year, they think it is especially important to minimize the risk of concurrent flu and COVID-19.”

Facebook has taken other steps to try to stop the spread of vaccine and coronavirus-related misinformation on its platform. Last year, it said it would begin hiding groups and pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations from the search function of its site.

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Since the pandemic began, the company has tightened its rules around COVID-related misinformation. Still, some experts are skeptical about the latest move.

Facebook is addressing the anti-vaxxers of 2014 and 2015 and not the anti-vaxxers of 2020, David A. Broniatowski, an associate professor at George Washington University's school of engineering and applied science who has published several studies on vaccine misinformation, told the Associated Press.

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In 2019, Broniatowski published a study that found that the majority of anti-vaccine misinformation being pushed in advertisements on Facebook were coming from two groups, including one led by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and a California-based organization called Stop Mandatory Vaccination.

"I understand where they are coming from that they want to promote civil engagement but at the same time, if their intention is to reduce the amount of anti-vaccine misinformation, they are not addressing the largest source of that misinformation,” Broniatowski said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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