Facebook and Instagram to Combat Anti-Vaccine Misinformation

September 11, 2019

Why the move could signal a big shift for healthcare.

Facebook and Instagram aim to help stop the spread of anti-vaccine misinformation.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, announced that educational pop-up windows will appear both platforms when a user searches for vaccine-related content, visits vaccine-related Facebook groups and pages, or taps a vaccine-related hashtag on Instagram, CNN reported. A U.S.-based user will be connected to the CDC via a pop-up window for credible information on vaccines. If the user is outside of the U.S., it will connect them to the World Health Organization.

“In such matters of broad public health-such as vaccines-it has become unavoidable for such entities like Facebook to decide if they will play a role or stay on the sidelines, but this may open up a bit of a can of worms regarding where the line is drawn,” says Peter Manoogian, principal, ZS, a global professional services firm located in Evanston, Illinois.

“The lack of contact information health insurers and providers have about their customers, and the relatively poor engagement customers have with health insurers and providers even if they do have access makes this a bit more of a need,” Manoogian says. “To the digital-first customer, at least the information is being delivered to ‘where’ they are-online in social media.”

According to Manoogian, if health plans and providers ultimately can’t find ways to communicate with their members on broad topics, we could see these examples proliferate.

Related article: Nearly half of adult patients skeptical of vaccines, survey finds

“It’s also possible that we could see them become more localized and integrated, with plans and providers, relating to other matters of public health-such as the mosquito-borne illness in Massachusetts,” he says.

“Extending beyond matters of public health, what if Facebook or others started advising consumers on which hospital/doctor to go to, using social media like Yelp would plus quality scores etc.,” Manoogian says. “They are already the ‘front door’ for so many other topics, but what happens if that front door ‘widens’ a bit to invite in a vast array of healthcare decisions as well? Health plans and providers need to accelerate their ability to engage with and build trust from customers/patients, who otherwise may just get served the information directly in the forums where they already frequent.”

Public health experts have pointed to anti-vaccination content online as playing a major role in fewer people getting vaccinated against certain diseases, resulting in outbreaks of measles and other illnesses.