Two Groups Are Responsible For The Majority Of Anti-Vaxxing Ads On Facebook

As recent research reveals that most of the anti-vaxxing ads on Facebook are being funded by only two companies, it’s an important reminder of the danger that disinformation about vaccinations can cause. With little research — and in many cases, absolutely no evidence — to back their cause, the anti-vaxxing movement has been named one of the biggest health threats facing the planet. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), “vaccine hesitancy” is one of the biggest global threats to our health, along with climate change and Ebola.

It’s not just about anti-vaxxers exposing themselves and their children to terrible risk — it affects all of us. Earlier this year, Catherine Montantes, a 28-year-old college student, died of measles — despite being vaccinated. After visiting a hospital where a patient with measles had recently been, she contracted the disease because the medication she was on for an auto-immune disorder had suppressed her immune system. Within a few months, she was dead.

Measles has seen a resurgence in the US, mostly in New York, and even those vaccinated can be at risk. Those refusing to vaccinate their children are making a unilateral decision that puts the world’s health in their own hands.

Of course, vaccines — like all treatments — have risks. But all data points to the necessity of vaccines. In fact, the WHO has shown that being vaccinated against measles is 1,000 times less risky than not being vaccinated — it seems so simple. Yet the anti-vaxxer movement is growing.

Recent research reveals that 54 percent of anti-vaxx ads on Facebook — one of the hubs for the spread of anti-vaxx propaganda — were purchased by the World Mercury Project, chaired by Robert F Kennedy Jr, and Stop Mandatory Vaccinations, from campaigner Larry Cook.

 

 

Despite the fact that many of these ads clearly contain misinformation and outright untruths, these heavy-hitting campaigns get around this by being incredibly well-versed in the terms and conditions of their social media platforms.

“Although they are spreading misinformation, they are following the letter of the terms,” David Broniatowski, a professor of engineering at George Washington University, told The Guardian. “This is a situation where the letter of the terms is not consistent with the intent of the terms.”

Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools — arguably the most powerful tool — that modern medicine has given us. It’s too important of a conversation to be monopolized. Social media has to do better.