The American Medical Association Wednesday urged big social media and technology companies including Amazon, Facebook, and Google to take action to stop vaccine misinformation on their platforms.
In a letter to the CEOs of Amazon, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube, the nation’s largest physician group says more needs to be done to combat the effort of anti-vaccine groups that are using social media to target parents.
The AMA said “vaccine-preventable diseases” like measles are on the rise nationwide and threatening the nation’s public health. Reports are emerging that anti-vaxxers are paying to have content appear on social media feeds and other platforms.
The AMA worries that a parent or someone seeking quality health information searches for information about a vaccine will instead be hit with anti-vaccination advertisements and content.
“With public health on the line and with social media serving as a leading source of information for the American people, we urge you to do your part to ensure that users have access to scientifically valid information on vaccinations, so they can make informed decisions about their families’ health,” AMA CEO and executive vice president Dr. James Madara said in his March 13 letter to the technology and social media companies. “We also urge you to make public your plans to ensure that users have access to accurate, timely, scientifically sound information on vaccines.”
There have been reports that half of parents with children under the age of 5 are being exposed to negative or inaccurate information about vaccines. Some social media companies have already taken steps to update health information or are changing their policies.
Pinterest, for example, says it doesn’t “allow advice when it has immediate and detrimental effects on a pinner’s health or on public safety,” the social media platform’s community guidelines say. “This includes promotion of false cures for terminal or chronic illnesses and anti-vaccination advice.”
The AMA says social media companies need to continue evaluating the impact of their policies and “take further steps to address the issue as needed.”
“As evident from the measles outbreaks currently impacting communities in several states, when people decide not to be immunized as a matter of personal preference or misinformation, they put themselves and others at risk of disease,” AMA’s Madara said. “That is why it is extremely important that people who are searching for information about vaccination have access to accurate, evidence-based information grounded in science.”
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