The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling on Google, Facebook and Pinterest to help stop the spread of anti-vax misinformation online. The president of the AAP, Kyle E. Yasuda, wrote letters to the CEOs of the three major tech companies on March 4, personally urging them to confront this public health crisis.
In the letters, Yasuda said pediatricians are watching their “worst fears realized” as the recent measles outbreak—a disease once eliminated with an effective vaccine—is now endangering entire communities. Yasuda said that while pediatricians are working hard to inform families about the importance of vaccines, it is no longer enough.
When facts aren't enough: Why some parents are scared of vaccinesThe release notes that while “robust scientific research” shows that vaccines are safe and effective, inaccurate and misleading information proliferates online. As more and more parents are turning to social media for both answers and information about their children’s health, Yasuda says, “We must ensure that the decisions are indeed informed, with credible, scientific information from trusted sources.”
The World Health Organization recently identified “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the biggest health threats in 2019. In this era of misinformation, social networks like Facebook, Google and Pinterest have served as platforms allowing harmful anti-vax content to mislead parents.
In recent weeks, Facebook, Google and Pinterest have all begun taking steps to address the specific issues in their respective platforms. Youtube’s parent company, Google, removed all vaccine conspiracy ads and is working to limit the spread of videos promoting phony medical cures. Recently, Pinterest blocked all searches using terms that related to anti-vax posts. However, Facebook is still under pressure to remove closed groups where anti-vaxxers congregate, called “echo chambers.” But Yasuda said that more needs to be done to ensure that parents are equipped with credible information from verified sources.
“We have found that continuing to talk with parents who are hesitant about vaccines is the best way to bring them closer to a decision to vaccinate their child,” he said. “The same is true in the social media space.”