Bleats

In A Win For Rational Thought, YouTube Has Hit Anti-Vax Channels Where It Hurts - Their Wallets

Get a flu shot to pay respects.

YouTube announced on Friday that going forward, it would prevent channels that promote anti-vaccination content from running ads, also known as ‘demonetising’ them.

The decision was announced after several advertisers began pulling their ads from videos with anti-vax content following inquiries from Buzzfeed News. 

In a statement emailed to Buzzfeed News, a YouTube spokesperson said:

“We have strict policies that govern what videos we allow ads to appear on, and videos that promote anti-vaccination content are a violation of those policies. We enforce these policies vigorously, and if we find a video that violates them, we immediately take action and remove ads.”

Last week, we reported that Facebook was looking at instructing its algorithms to stop recommending anti-vax groups to users following a measles outbreak in Washington. This was partially prompted by a letter sent by Congressman Adam B. Schiff, that expressed concern that the Facebook and Instagram algorithms were “surfacing and recommending messages that discourage parents from vaccinating their children”.

Elmo thinks vaccines are great.

Google has already put in place some measures to prevent misinformation from surfacing in search results, including adjusting the way videos are recommended on YouTube so that videos with medical misinformation will no longer be recommended to users.

Demonetisation is a much more significant step, however. It essentially removes all financial incentives for the user to continue creating and sharing anti-vaccination content on YouTube.

 

In addition to demonetisation, YouTube has also introduced an information panel related to vaccines. According to Buzzfeed News:

“A large number of anti-vax videos have an information panel that links to the Wikipedia page for “vaccine hesitancy”, where it is described as “one of the top ten global health threats of 2019″ according the World Health Organization.”

It’s not clear whether these changes have been implemented worldwide, however. While Buzzfeed News provides screenshots of the new information panels, YouTube doesn’t show them underneath the anti-vax videos I’ve viewed in Australia.

Still, it’s a good step to fighting the rising tide of unregulated misinformation available online, and hopefully other tech giants follow in Google’s footsteps soon.

Facebook Is On A Mission To Stop Anti-Vax Recommendations After An Outbreak Of Measles

Common sense prevails!

According to Bloomberg, Facebook has said that it is “exploring removing anti-vaccine information from software systems that recommend other things to read on its social network”.

In layman’s terms, that means that it might instruct its algorithms to stop suggesting pages or articles that are anti-vax or from anti-vax websites whenever those little ‘Suggested Pages’, ‘Articles Similar To This’, or ‘Groups You Might Like’ boxes pop up.

The move comes after Congressman Adam B. Schiff sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, expressing concern that the Facebook and Instagram algorithms were “surfacing and recommending messages that discourage parents from vaccinating their children”.

Congressman Schiff cited the state of emergency that was declared in Washington state following a measles outbreak last month, writing that:

“There is strong evidence to suggest that at least part of the source of this trend is the degree to which medically inaccurate information about vaccines surface on the websites where many Americans get their information, among them Facebook and Instagram.”

In response, Facebook said it is “exploring additional measures to best combat the problem”, which might include “reducing or removing this type of content from recommendations, including Groups You Should Join, and demoting it in search results, while also ensuring that higher quality and more authoritative information is available.”

The congressman also contacted Google with his concerns, but the web search giant did not immediately respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment. However, Google has already been taking steps to prevent misinformation from surfacing, including adjusting the way videos are recommended on YouTube so that videos with medical misinformation will no longer be recommended to users.

That doesn’t mean misinformation is hidden from users entirely, however. If you search for videos about ‘vaccines’ on YouTube, the eighth result is a documentary called ‘The Truth About Vaccines’ that has over 1.1 million views and a description that reads, “The risks of vaccines are very real, and parents are allowed to question their safety.”

So that’s not great.

But this change, if Facebook were to implement it, would be better than nothing, and would hopefully do something to prevent more people getting sucked into the echo chamber of misinformation and hysteria so easily available to them via the lawless wasteland that is Facebook Groups.

Fingers crossed Facebook decides to go ahead and train its little robots to stop recommending anti-vax groups and pages!

Can you tell I absolutely, with 100% certainty understand how Facebook algorithms work? Good.

To No One's Surprise, It Turns Out Anti-Vaxxers Are One Of The Biggest Threats To Global Health

Can you believe?

Earlier this week, the World Health Organisation published a list of ten of the biggest threats to global health in 2019. Included on the list alongside diseases like ebola and influenza, noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, and environmental factors like air pollution, was “vaccine hesitancy”, a nice way of saying “anti-vaxxers”.

In the words of the World Health Organisation, “vaccine hesitancy – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases.”

According to the WHO, “vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved.”

According to people who are afraid of scientists and rely on websites like ‘Natural Mama’s Truth Den’ and ‘The Illuminati Is Real And Using Big Pharma To Poison You’, vaccines can cause autism and other vaccine injuries, and there’s a big conspiracy to cover up the facts and force vaccines on everyone.

Hm. I wonder who I believe?

The WHO points out that measles has seen a 30% increase in cases worldwide, which isn’t surprising given the number of stories from this month alone about people with measles travelling around Australia, spreading their germs. How generous of them. Does it come with a gift receipt? Because I’d like to return it, if possible.

While anti-vaxxers see not vaccinating themselves or their children as a personal choice, the reality is that our choices don’t exist in a vacuum, unless you live in a cabin in the woods in complete isolation from society.

Herd immunity is needed to minimise the likelihood of infectious diseases taking hold in a community, and people who can’t get vaccinated, like babies and the immunocompromised, rely on it to protect them.

Not vaccinating is an inherently selfish choice with serious consequences, and if you’re a well-educated, well-off person living in Australia, there’s no excuse for not vaccinating yourself or your children.

On the bright side, the WHO notes that 2019 might be the year that the transmission of wild poliovirus is stopped in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Less than 30 cases were reported across the two countries in 2018, so it looks like they’re on track to stop the disease from spreading soon. Yay for vaccinations!

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