On Friday, The Guardian reported that that YouTube and Facebook‘s algorithms are promoting anti-vaccine content on their platforms.
A search on Facebook for vaccination reveals that many of the top autofill suggestions are for anti-vaccination, vaccine re-education, or the Vaccine Information Network (VIN). Groups, like the VIN, have thousands of members and spreads false and misleading information about the risks of immunizing children. One closed Facebook group, The Vaccination Re-education Discussion Forum, has over 140,000 members.
Searching for the word vaccine on YouTube, produces autofill suggestions such as vaccines are toxic, vaccination the silent killer, and vaccine injury. The Guardian also points out that even when users watch a video that has factual medical information, YouTube’s algorithm suggests another video that is geared toward misinformation.
YouTube and Facebook are trying to make changes to deal with the misinformation. YouTube will retool their algorithms so that conspiracy theory or vaccine skeptic videos are viewed less often, while Facebook is still looking into ways to prevent anti-vaccine propaganda from being disseminated.
One good way to overcome misinformation, objections and accusations from misinformed or intentionally deceptive sources, like VIN, is to study their material and respond to it in kind. This also means reading and understanding their mindset so as to better counter the source itself. The free flow of information does not mean false information should flourish but should be available for scrutiny and response since the most consistent and informed person in a public debate nearly always wins.