Experts call for Facebook to stop anti-vaccine lies

anti-vaccine liesCC: Glen Carrie at Unsplash

As one of the best places for anti-vax echo chambers to exist, Facebook is now under pressure from public health experts. In recent months, the repercussions of anti-vaccine lies have worsened rapidly. In Washington, a state of emergency was declared due to a measles outbreak. Additionally, the World Health Organization believes the anti-vaccination movement poses a big risk to the public’s health.

The Internet has always been an excellent breeding ground for anti-vaccine lies. As the place where conspiracy theories go to thrive, it can be as harmful as it is useful on the health front. Unfortunately, Facebook is especially threatening. The closed groups that exist there often ban members from challenging their status quo. As we’ve recently seen with the freebirth movement, this becomes dangerous.

Promoting personal choice vs. anti-vaccine lies

Those who manage anti-vax Facebook groups will quickly claim they’re promoting personal choice. They often cite that they encourage members to do their research. They’re vehemently against Big Pharma. They also minimize the harms that come with infectious diseases.

Unfortunately, the ways admin teams manage these groups doesn’t promote personal freedom. If a member speaks in a pro-vaccine manner they’re often banned or their posts are deleted. That’s hardly conducive to a free and open debate that has the potential to educate others.

Many groups use strict measures to determine who can join. They achieve this by ensuring the membership falls under Facebook’s secret or closed status. With these measures, they can significantly reduce the likelihood of dissenting voices potentially promoting a genuinely free discussion among those who are exposed to anti-vaccine lies.

Those who are most worried about these groups have suggested Facebook should make more of an effort to stop them. They’ve called for the social media giant to remove harmful posts before they encourage dangerous health behaviours.

No, this isn’t a push to challenge Big Pharma

When anybody challenges an anti-vaccine campaigner to explain why doctors promote vaccinations, they’ll cite Big Pharma as an argument. At the same time, many of the Facebook groups that peddle health myths also promote certain products for financial gain.

A report from The Guardian found that one group owner who promotes the use of Vitamin C to keep diseases at bay also sells Vitamin C supplements. While it’s essential to get enough Vitamin C in your diet for lots of reasons, it’s not an effective way to protect yourself against diseases. One promoter of this theory recommends taking an elevated amount of Vitamin C to protect yourself against diseases. To achieve this, she suggests buying bags of Vitamin C powder from her at $432 per order. Surely, if the health of the group’s participants as a legitimate concern, she would encourage a natural Vitamin C intake from everyday foods?

This isn’t an uncommon tactic used by those who promote anti-vaccine lies. Usually, you’ll find that their myths preceed a natural health suggestion. Then, they’ll throw an affiliate link or self-made product your way.

What are some of the biggest anti-vaccine lies to watch out for?

If you’re considering looking at one of these groups out of curiosity, it’s worth knowing what some of the biggest anti-vaccine lies are:

You must avoid children who were recently vaccinated

As far as anti-vaccine lies go, this one is a classic example of twisting the truth. It stems from John Hopkins Medicine telling people with certain diseases to avoid children who were recently vaccinated. Anti-vaxxers tried to use it as evidence that recently vaccinated children are dangerous to be around.

Improved living standards prevent diseases, not vaccines

If this were the case, epidemics such as the most recent one in Washington wouldn’t be an issue. Malaria also wouldn’t be problematic in the more affluent parts of countries where it remains endemic. Additionally, this theory doesn’t explain the continuation of HIV, rotavirus, and various forms of HSV.

The ingredients in vaccines are poisonous

No, they are not. Examples that are commonly used include formaldehyde, which you’ll also find in pears. It’s also worth remembering the fact that the poison is in the dose. Drinking too much water can result in death, which illustrates that particular argument.

If you feel as though you’ve spotted any anti-vaccine lies on Facebook, always consider fact-checking with a science-based resource.

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.