Legislators and public health advocates are suppressing technology companies to eliminate the proliferation of anti-vaccine content that fears it will contribute to a massive outbreak of measles in the United States.
Experts attribute the focus to the growing number of anti-vaxers, people who do not vaccinate their children. They warn that traffic is largely used by social media to promote their views, for example through YouTube videos and Facebook chat groups.
Technological giants say they are addressing the issue seriously, even when they are struggling with the competition requirements between promoting public health and protection
Facebook said it may stop recommending users anti-vaccine content and groups while YouTube is trying to changed its algorithms to stop advertising of video with disinformation.
A YouTube spokesman in a statement to The Hill The video sharing platform has begun to present accurate medical content for "people looking for vaccination topics" and "begins to reduce" the recommendations of videos against vaccination.
"Like many algorithmic changes, these efforts will be gradual and will become more accurate over time," the spokesman said.
YouTube over the weekend said it would demotivate channels that promote the content of anti-vaccines and link to Wikipedia's "vacillational hesitation" records before videos that promote such views. Pinterest has taken the strongest position so far. This week she announced that she would block the search results for vaccinations.
The image sharing network is one of the major platforms with a specific "health misinformation" policy introduced in 201
The debate also highlights a critical issue for technology companies: the amount of responsibility they have to bear for information on their platforms.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act also prevents the largest platforms from being held legally responsible for the content posted by their users, leaving technology regulators without much leverage.
Liz Woolery, Deputy Director of the Center for Democracy and Free-Movement Technology Project, told Hill, believes that each company should decide how to deal with anti-v
But the recent epidemic of measles adds a new urgency for the debate and emphasizes the power of social networks.
The epidemic comes 18 years after the official eradication of measles in the United States and has already hit nearly 350 people last fall and has led to the announcement of a public health emergency in Washington last month .
The World Health Organization (WHO) this year included vaccine fluctuation among the ten World Health Threats
Health experts who spoke to Hill said there was a direct link between the content of anti-vaccine online and increasing the number of people who fail to get vaccinated. a great case – a computer virus with real-life effects, "said Dr. Heider Waraic, a collaborator of heart failure and transplantation at Duke University Medical Center. Warraich has studied and criticized the presence of medical disinformation online.
"It started like rumors on the internet that merged into these social media groups and now have real effects in real communities," Warraich said. "So, I think the internet plays a role in this being the first of many other examples in the future."
A recent Guardian's investigation found that Facebook's YouTube and algorithms drive users to anti-vaccine content, which opposes them from authoritative medical resources to unscientific estimates.
Facebook and YouTube said they were taking steps to tackle the problem, but shortly thereafter, Buzzfeed News reported that Google
These reports drew the attention of legislators.
"It's not enough that YouTube's algorithms continue to drive conspiratorial videos to consumers who disseminate disinformation and ultimately harm public health, Chairman of the Energy and Real Estate Commission Frank Palone, Jr. (DN.J. ), said in a statement to Hill.
Palone noted that his committee, covering both sides of the technology and health issues, hearing on the outbreak of measles on February 27 and pledged to "discuss this with public health experts who testify . " These witnesses will include Nancy Mesoniere, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Healthcare Unit (NIH) for Allergic and Infectious Diseases.
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Schiff writes that he is concerned about YouTube, Facebook and Instagram "habits and recommendations for messages that prevent parents from vaccinating their children, a direct threat to public health and overcoming the progress made in combating disease-preventable diseases . "
While MPs insist on action, health advocates worry that federal health agencies are acting slow.
The CDC and the Ministry of Health and Human Services (HHS) have not launched new campaigns aimed at increasing the content of anti-vaccine online in recent years. The two agencies have not returned Hill's requests for comment on the role of social media in the dissemination of anti-vaccine information.
The WHO also did not respond to Hill's repeated requests for comment on the role that social media can play in deterring people from
Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and Judge of the Children's Vaccine Development Center for Vaccines in Texas, said the CDC largely ignored the anti-vaccination movement, as the potential argument was "Well, that's a group of fringe, and like it I call, I pay attention to this, you give it to him they're just oxygen, "Hotez, who studies the fluctuation of the vaccine," said Hill. "I think this is probably a good strategy in the early 2000s, but I think the lack of recognition is that this is already a media empire that must now be abolished."
"They dominate the internet," said Hetzez Hill. "Not only social media – they also have almost 500 anti-vaccine websites from some accounts.
Hotsseh pointed out another technology company: Amazon.
Many of the best-selling and top rated books in Amazon's "vaccinations" category are skeptical or directly opposed to vaccines. The fifth most popular book, popularized by the online giant for retail, promotes the theory that vaccines cause autism, a claim strongly condemned by scientists.
Amazon declined to comment on this story in the book, pointing it to bookkeeping guidelines that allow the company to "provide … to customers with different views, including books that some customers may find unacceptable."  "We reserve the right not to sell certain content, such as pornography or other inappropriate content, Amazon says in the instructions without going into detail.
Dr. Arthur Kaplan, head of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Medicine at New York University, told Hill that many anti-vaccine content is spreading through "small and medium groups and organizations that accumulate each other by exchanging one another.
"Twitter [and] Facebook is the biggest one," says Kaplan. "There are bots … that encourage or reinforce disinformation.
Twitter does not have a specific medical disinformation policy.
"The open and real-time nature of Twitter is a powerful antidote for spreading all kinds of false information," a Twitter spokesman said in a statement to Hill. "We, as a company, should not be the arbitrator of the truth."
For tech companies, these difficult questions do not go away.
"Working together is the solution," Warraich said, encouraging technology companies
"Technological companies need to be modest and have to realize that it is a public health crisis that they can be a solution to the problem."