With today’s modern medicine and science, one wouldn’t think that vaccines are a hot topic. Unfortunately, that is exactly what’s happening across the United States and especially on social media. As droves of “anti-vaxxers” (people who think vaccines are unsafe) try to spread ungrounded claims and misinformation, social media companies are taking a stand.
Pinterest now joins Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in an attempt to stop “harmful medical misinformation” when a user searches for vaccine-related content. Instead, the social sharing platform will show verified content from reliable sources like the World Health Organization (WHO).
Stopping the Source
In 2018, a Pinterest search for “vaccines” would show results associated with anti-vaccination at a shocking 75 percent rate. Of course, this isn’t too surprising since not many people are going out of their way to create pro-vaccine content. Most people simply accept it as a fact of life.
Now, a Pinterest search for over 200 vaccine-related terms will return relevant, clinically confirmed information from international health organizations. The admirable move comes after the company originally stopped returning any vaccine-related results earlier this year.
Pinterest is encouraging groups like the WHO to develop image-based information that will garner shares on the platform and beyond. Since the site really only operates with images, it is a great opportunity for health organizations to get their message out in a simple, visually captivating way.
Ifeoma Ozoma, public policy and social impact manager at Pinterest says, “It was really important for us to make sure that this experience doesn’t allow any misinformation to seep in. You’re not going to end up in a situation where you click on a trustworthy pin and the recommendations or comments are full of misinformation.”
Team-Up for Good
Pinterest’s move reflects what the internet is seeing from other social media sites including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The team-up to stop the spread of vaccine-related misinformation demonstrates the productive power of these companies when they work together.
Twitter’s algorithm follows a very similar policy to Pinterest and displays trustworthy results instead of user-generated content. Meanwhile, Facebook actively removes pages with anti-vax content from its recommendations. Though YouTube still allows such content on the platform, it no longer runs ads containing it.
Of course, these measures are very important. This year, there has been a frightening resurgence of the measles virus after it was once nearly eliminated. The fault lies with misinformed people refusing to vaccinate their children—who can then acquire the virus and spread it to others.
Interestingly, Pinterest goes a step further than these other platforms. Its decision to veil anti-vaccine content isn’t actually the first time its hidden certain content from users. For example, it also obscures content related to search terms like “suicide,” “cutting,” and “bulimia.” Instead, users get a message directing them to a hotline related to their inquiry or to resources that may be able to help.
It is tremendously refreshing to see social media companies taking a stand against something as harmful as anti-vaccine misinformation. Thanks to the collaboration, hopefully, the anti-vax trend will die out for good.