Facebook Is Running Anti-Vax Ads, Despite Its Ban On Vaccine Misinformation


Screenshot of the Earthley pamphlet that’s being marketed on Facebook.

The vaccine for whooping cough, also called pertussis, is at present among the many greatest methods to forestall an sickness that kills greater than 160,000 folks annually, lots of them infants. The vaccine is protected and doesn’t trigger autism or different neurological problems. Despite its personal guidelines prohibiting vaccine misinformation in advertisements, Facebook is internet hosting advertisements for a web-based pamphlet that falsely claims that the life-saving vaccine is unsafe.

One advert reads, “Is the vaccine the best option? And if not, what is?” Another says, “Click below for a FREE guide for Pertussis which will include: Vaccine Controversy.”

A Facebook spokesperson advised BuzzFeed News that the advertisements represented “no violation” of its insurance policies. As of as we speak, these advertisements have been nonetheless working on each Facebook and Instagram. After publication of this text, Facebook offered the next remark.

“Facebook does not have a policy that bans advertising on the basis that it expresses opposition to vaccines,” a Facebook spokesperson stated. “Our policy is to ban ads containing vaccine misinformation.”

Facebook has just lately struggled to enact and implement its promoting insurance policies, as the location continues to prioritize scale over security. The Trump marketing campaign was just lately discovered to have positioned advertisements that violated the location’s ban on pretend buttons, which make advertisements look like surveys. Facebook’s spokespeople initially appeared confused about whether or not new guidelines banning deepfakes would apply to political advertisements, earlier than later saying that they might. The website has additionally controversially stated it will enable politicians to lie in advertisements.

The anti-vaccination advertisements are being run by Earthley, an alternate medication firm primarily based in Ohio and owned by Catherine and Benjamin Tietje. Earthley is an offshoot of the choice medication weblog Modern Alternative Mama, which has constructed up a following of greater than 70,000 folks on Facebook over the previous 10 years. The advertisements, which have been working since Dec. 9, hyperlink to a touchdown web page that enables folks to obtain a free PDF on Earthley’s web site.


Screenshot from the Facebook Ad Library web page for Earthley.

The doc falsely claims that the whooping cough vaccine accommodates ranges of the component aluminum that might trigger neurological harm, and it presents Earthley merchandise — like elderberry elixir, vitamin C powder, and a combination of herbs — in its place.

Facebook’s promoting coverage bans advertisements with claims which have been “debunked by third-party fact checkers or, in certain circumstances, claims debunked by organizations with particular expertise.” The coverage particularly cites false claims about vaccines. “When we find ads that include misinformation about vaccinations, we will reject them,” Facebook’s coverage reads.

“We tackle vaccine misinformation on Facebook and Instagram by reducing its distribution and connecting people with authoritative information from experts on the topic,” a Facebook spokesperson stated. “We partner with leading public health organizations, such as the World Health Organization, which has publicly identified vaccine hoaxes — if these hoaxes appear on Facebook, we will take action against them — including rejecting ads.”

Earthley’s customer support account, which is run by the Tietjes, stated in an electronic mail that Earthley doesn’t consider its advertisements violated Facebook’s insurance policies.

“We’re aware that Facebook doesn’t like information that questions the vaccine paradigm in any way,” it stated. “It is up to Facebook to properly review ads and choose to reject the ones it does not want on its platform.”

Peter Hotez, a professor of pediatrics and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, advised BuzzFeed News that the content material marketed on Facebook was harmful.

“The vaccine is safe, it does not cause autism, does not cause all the other things that they talk about. It’s highly protective, and could save your child’s life,” Hotez stated. “I’m not aware of any evidence that suggests all the other things that were brought up in this person’s article — about organic herbs, dandelion roots, organic vegetable glycerin, cinnamon — having any impact on pertussis.”

Earthley and Modern Alternative Mama not solely disseminate anti-vaccination misinformation in commercials, but additionally steadily publish unpaid anti-vaccination content material on their public Facebook and Instagram accounts.

There are a number of methods to work round Facebook’s restrictions on anti-vaccination advertisements. For occasion, though blatantly deceptive hashtags like #vaccineskill are blocked on Instagram, folks use hashtags like #vaççineskillandinjure, or cryptic hashtags #readaninsert, which refers to a grassroots marketing campaign to unfold paper inserts and pamphlets that promote vaccine misinformation.

Facebook declined to touch upon the way it identifies or moderates hashtags like these.

Some folks embody Linktree hyperlinks of their Instagram bios, which, if clicked, deliver customers to a customized web page with a number of hyperlinks. Sometimes, Linktree is used to direct folks to web sites that embody much more misinformation about vaccines.

Linktree is usually utilized by Earthley associates with a view to promote the corporate’s merchandise. For occasion, a number of folks have Linktree hyperlinks of their bios that embody a hyperlink to Earthley’s product itemizing for $four “Vaccine Education Cards.” These playing cards falsely declare, amongst different issues, that “Aluminum adjuvants in some vaccines are tied to neurological damage, autism, learning disabilities, and more.”

Facebook didn’t touch upon the way it identifies or moderates misinformation link-sharing in profile bios.

The Affiliate Program web page on Earthley’s web site hyperlinks to a personal Facebook group known as “Earthologists.” The group, which has over 800 members, says that it could “teach you how to make an income from home without the pressure that comes with a typical MLM or direct sales opportunity.”

Facebook doesn’t prohibit folks from selling anti-vaccination content material in personal Facebook teams.

“If someone wants to post anti-vaccination content, or if they want to join a group where people are discussing that content, we don’t prevent them from doing that,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated. “But we don’t go out of our way to make sure our group recommendation systems try to encourage people to join those groups.”

“Even after congressional hearings were held about the return of measles last spring, I met with both committees — the Senate Committee and the House Oversight Subcommittee,” Hotez stated, “and basically [they] say neither Facebook, or Amazon, or Instagram has really made a good faith effort to take down anti-vaccine content.”


This article has been up to date to mirror further remark from Facebook.

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