Facebook bans ads that discourage people from getting vaccines

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(Reuters) – Facebook will ban ads that specifically discourage people from getting vaccinated, the world’s largest social media company said Tuesday, and it also announced a new flu vaccine information campaign.

Ads campaigning for or against any law or government policy related to vaccines, including a COVID-19 vaccine, are still allowed, the company said in a blog post. It will start implementing the new global policy in the next few days.

Facebook, with 2.7 billion monthly active users, has been under pressure from lawmakers and health organizations to crack down on vaccines and misinformation on its platform. The company said that although a COVID-19 vaccine would not be available for some time, the pandemic had highlighted the importance of preventive health behaviors.

Facebook’s earlier rules banned ads containing vaccine misinformation or jokes identified by leading health organizations, but allowed ads against vaccines if they didn’t make false claims.

That summer, Jason Hirsch, public policy manager at Facebook, told Reuters that the company should believe that users should be able to express personal views on vaccines and that more aggressive censorship should keep people talking about vaccines hesitant to drift towards the vaccination camp.

According to the company’s health director, Kang-Xing Jin, and director of product management, Rob Leathern, in the blog post, Facebook will also alert US users to information about the flu vaccine and how to get it this week.

Facebook is working with public health partners like the World Health Organization and UNICEF on messaging campaigns to increase vaccination rates.

Anti-vaccine content and misinformation about the new COVID-19 vaccines have flourished on social media platforms like Facebook during the coronavirus pandemic, researchers told Reuters earlier this year.

In September, the company also announced that it would no longer recommend health-related Facebook groups. It is crucial that people receive health information from “authoritative sources”.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; Editing by Richard Chang)