Study finds most anti-vaxx Facebook pages come from just two organisations

The majority of anti-vaccination Facebook pages appear to originate from just two US-based organisations.

A report from George Washington University suggests the World Mercury Project and Stop Mandatory Vaccinations are behind much of the misinformation spread on the social network.

The latter bought 54% of the anti-vaccine adverts displayed on Facebook through the duration of the study, according to the Guardian.

Both organisations are headed by anti-vaccination activists – Robert F Kennedy Jr and Larry Cook – who have criticised the use of child vaccinations in the US.

‘These two individuals were generating the majority of the content,’ said David Broniatowski, a professor of engineering at George Washington University and one of the authors of the report.

The report was published in the journal Vaccine where the researchers explained that they used the keyword ‘vaccine’ to search Ad Archive on December 13, 2018 and again on February 22, 2019.

‘We exported data for 505 advertisements. A team of annotators sorted advertisements by content: pro-vaccine, anti-vaccine, not relevant,’ the researchers wrote.

MORE: I was an anti-vaxxer and my children were the ones who suffered

And the results show that most of the noise is coming from the aforementioned individuals.

‘A small set of anti-vaccine advertisement buyers have leveraged Facebook advertisements to reach targeted audiences,’ the researchers concluded.

‘By deeming all vaccine-related content an issue of “national importance,” Facebook has further the politicized vaccines. The implementation of a blanket disclosure policy also limits which ads can successfully run on Facebook. Improving transparency and limiting misinformation should not be separate goals.’

The anti-vaccine movement believes that vaccinating children causes more harm than good and in some cases are completely refusing to let their children be vaccinated with, for example, the MMR vaccine.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has listed the anti-vaxx movement as one of the top 10 global health threats of 2019.

Over here in the UK, the NHS has slammed the movement.

Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, said health services will make it easier for parents to get their children vaccinated over the coming year but warned against ‘toxic’ pseudoscience after the WHO announced the UK is no longer measles-free.

Last month it emerged the vaccination rate for infants getting their first MMR jab has fallen for the fifth consecutive year, leaving one in ten children at risk.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Mr Stevens said: ‘Crucially, this rate is below the 95 per cent threshold where a critical mass of people is protected, creating a ‘herd immunity’ that keeps the whole population safe.’

He said the figure matters because the lives of children who cannot be vaccinated due to treatments like chemotherapy depend on other kids having had the jab to keep measles at bay.

The vaccine is not only safe but ‘essential’, he added.

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