On Tuesday, Facebook announced that it would no longer be allowing anti-vaccination ads on its platform. Prior to this, the company had a policy prohibiting vaccine hoaxes that had been publicly identified by global health organizations, but this is the first outright ban on anti-vax advertisements.
“If an ad that advocates for/against legislation or government policies explicitly discourages a vaccine, it will be rejected,” a spokesperson wrote CNBC. “That includes portraying vaccines as useless, ineffective, unsafe or unhealthy, describing the diseases vaccines are created for as harmless, or the ingredients in vaccines as harmful or deadly.”
This new policy is part of a broader effort by Facebook to finally implement changes that address some of the problematic and potentially harmful content that the company had been hesitant to ban from its platform. This week, Facebook also announced a ban on Holocaust denialism, and last week, the company prohibited pages and groups supporting the QAnon conspiracy theory.
However, this ban on anti-vaccination content is specific to advertisements—it won’t apply to user-generated content in groups or on pages, which critics say are key to the spread of false conspiracy theories about vaccines. In addition, Facebook will still allow ads advocating for or against legislation or government policies surrounding vaccination (including those specifically discussing the covid-19 vaccine).
Although it’s good that Facebook is banning anti-vax advertisements, this decision is coming several years too late for it to have much of an impact, similar to most of that company’s decisions.