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Pinterest, a digital platform that is popular with parents, pulled the ground from under the feet of the anti-vaccine propaganda: It deleted terms related to vaccination from the search engine.
Neither “vaccination” nor “vaccination”
If you enter “vaccine”, “Vaccination” or “anti-vax” on Pinterest today, you won't find anything.
A virtual pin board
Pinterest is a virtual pin board where people can save pictures. Most of them are cat photos, fashion trends, home furnishings and other everyday things. Pinterest also became a platform for anti-vaccine activists to spread misinformation.
In the United States, 80 percent of mothers and 38 percent of fathers are active on Pinterest, and the company has 250 million active users per month. Spreading propaganda here is extremely effective, especially since opponents of vaccination target parents to stop them vaccinating their children.
Other platforms have the same problem
Facebook, Youtube and other social media are also infiltrated by vaccination opponents with misinformation. YouTube responds to this by pulling anti-vaccination videos out of circulation. However, the YouTube “caretakers” do not comply. Only Pinterest chose the radical method of not allowing results with vaccine-related content per se, regardless of whether they are legitimate or not.
A temporary solution
Jamie Favazza, a spokesman for Pinterest, clarifies that this is only a temporary solution. The company was in the process of finding a long-term solution in which serious contributions to vaccination could also appear again.
Why the internet?
Vaccination opponents have been mobilizing since vaccination established itself as the most successful method in medicine in the 19th century. The success of vaccinations, which saved the lives of millions and / or saved them from life-long disabilities such as mutilation, made the opponents of vaccination almost insignificant. Today, like no other medium, the Internet is suitable for reaching millions of people with misinformation, while the enlightenment takes significantly more time.
One of the greatest threats to global health
The World Health Organization has declared “vaccine hesitancy” one of the top ten health threats in the world.
People die from conquerable diseases
Despite clear evidence that vaccinations are effective and safe, some people choose not to have themselves and their children vaccinated - which has led to an increase in measles cases and measles deaths worldwide. There were five measles outbreaks in the United States in 2019.
Measles can be fatal
One or two out of a thousand children who get measles die. In 2018 measles in Europe killed 72 people, measles has its highest level in 20 years. Deaths are rare in developed countries, but serious complications such as blindness are more common.
Vaccination opposition - why?
There are various reasons why people refuse vaccinations: fear of side effects, costs, but above all religious and ideological aberrations. Misinformation such as that vaccinations cause autism play a special role. Hard opponents of vaccination live in a closed system of conspiracy delusion, in which they accuse the "pharmaceutical industry" and doctors of deliberately poisoning people.
Arthur L. Caplan, chair of the Medical Ethics Division at New York Medical School says: “We see all kinds of misinformation floating around on social media. Fake news, fake science. Everyone is an expert. ”
Mark Zuckerberg's responsibility
Adam B., Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in California wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the head of Facebook. In it, he asked what steps Facebook wanted to take to protect users from anti-vaccination information. He wrote a similar letter to Google.
Strict ban on opponents of vaccination
A spokesman for Youtube said: “We have a strict policy on videos that we allow and videos that spread anti-vaccine propaganda violate that policy. We follow our policies rigorously, and if we find a video that violates them, we immediately take action and delete it.
Millions of readers on Facebook
An analysis of seven Facebook pages spreading anti-vaccine posts showed that millions of people clicked on them over time.
Facebook also wants to prevent propaganda against vaccine opponents
Andra Vallone of Facebook said: "We have taken steps to reduce misinformation about health on Facebook, but we know we need to do more."
Censorship and consumer protection
Social media, on which the misinformation is spread, are always walking a tightrope to take the fear of censorship seriously and to combine it with the duty to protect users from (dangerous) misinformation. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)