In one of the latest attempts to combat misinformation about vaccine which have led to the reemergence of preventable diseases like measles, the American Medical Association is imploring top tech companies to take action against false anti-vaccine claims.
In a letter addressed to the CEOs of Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, Google, Youtube and Twitter, AMA executive vice president CEO James Madara wrote about the medical community’s concern about the spread of misinformation on vaccines and its ability to “undermine sound science, further decrease vaccinations, and persuade people to make medical decisions that could spark the spread of easily preventable diseases.”
The letter urges the companies to publicize the plans to ensure that users have access to timely and accurate information on vaccines. Platforms like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter have been criticized for spreading misinformation about the potential harms of vaccines and making it possible to specifically target parents seeking information about vaccines with anti-vaccination content.
“The overwhelming scientific evidence shows that vaccines are among the most effective and safest interventions to both prevent individual illness and protect public health. When immunization rates are high, people who cannot be protected directly by the vaccines are protected because they are not exposed to the disease. This includes children too young to receive vaccinations and people with medical contraindications,” Madara wrote in the letter.
In response to pressure from critics and lawmakers like Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Pinterest made the decision recently to block all vaccination searches to control inaccurate health claims. Google and Facebook also announced actions to better police anti-vaccine claims through demonetizing harmful content, improving search algorithms to surface accurate information and removing groups and pages that promote misinformation.
“The crucial test will be whether the steps outlined by Google and Facebook do in fact reduce the spread of anti-vaccine content on their platforms, thereby making it less likely to reach users who are simply seeking quality, fact-based health information for their children and families,” Schiff wrote in a statement.
The CDC reports that the number of measles cases in 2019 has already reached 228, nearing numbers not seen in decades. Around the world measles has seen a 30 percent increase in cases leading the World Health Organization to name “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the top global health threats of 2019.
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