Facebook will no longer allow organizations to run ads that encourage people to avoid getting vaccines. “Today, we’re launching a new global policy that prohibits ads discouraging people from getting vaccinated,” Facebook writes in a statement. “We don’t want these ads on our platform.” Facebook notes that it will continue to allow ads that “advocate for or against legislation or government policies around vaccines.”
Previously, Facebook’s policies barred ads that made false claims about vaccines, but didn’t take action on ads that discouraged or “expressed opposition” to vaccines. As BuzzFeed News reported earlier this year, many anti-vaccination groups took advantage of this loophole in order to run ads with false and misleading claims about the effectiveness of vaccines.
The new policy is part of a larger effort Facebook is undertaking in order to encourage more users to get flu shots during the coronavirus pandemic. The app will also start to surface flu shot reminders, and add information about the flu shot to its COVID-19 Information Center.
Importantly, Facebook doesn’t appear to be taking any new steps to combat organic, non-paid misinformation about vaccines. Though the company says it has taken steps to make anti-vaccine content less visible in its apps, vaccine misinformation is still rampant, and is often boosted by Facebook’s own algorithms. It’s also often a gateway into other types of conspiracy theories, including those about COVID-19.
Still, the new rules for ads will help close some of the loopholes that have enabled false and misleading claims about vaccines to spread.