Facebook and Instagram's Attempts At Halting the Anti-Vaccination Movement May Not Be Enough

Despite active measures being implemented by Facebook and Instagram, anti-vaccination misinformation is being propagated with abandon on the platforms.

The COVID-19 pandemic has overstayed its lack of a welcome for too long, and frankly, the world's had enough. Individuals are actively swinging their hopes on the new vaccines looking to end the pandemic once and for all.

Of course, when this author says individuals, there is a rather obnoxiously loud exception to the norm. Enter the Anti-Vaccination Movement.

With misinformation spreading like wildfire online, from people touting their ignorance like a badge of honor, the attempts at reaching herd immunity via vaccinations are receiving a sharp impediment. Since a majority of this misinformation is spread online, many online services and social media apps have pledged over and over again to combat such machinations. Our subjects for this article, Facebook and Instagram, were a part of such declarations.

Other than flagging such posts online, both social media platforms have been on a warpath, quickly banning accounts and pages that are adamantly refusing to stop their slander. Facebook, which also owns Instagram, has shown numbers that display an impressive 12 million posts from March to October that were removed, and a further 167 million that were flagged.

The wide range of social media allows for a certain type of flexibility. And that very flexibility allows antivax spam accounts and the like to persist, even after active measures taken to keep them down. Account got blocked? Make a new one. Page under threat of deletion? Make a Discord server, a subreddit, a Twitter thread, and keep the conversation going long after being exiled. The sheer number of online accounts also means that it is a virtually impossible task to completely stamp out misinformation.

However, there are more sources of mistrust to draw from. The current vaccines approved for distribution in the United States, colloquially labelled Pfizer and Moderna, have had a very thorough series of tests, protocols, and clinical trials to hurdle through. Their 90% success rate has been noted through testing over 15,000 subjects, with no serious side effects. However, while this should be a source of relief for sceptics, these factors are entirely overshadowed by the political discourse surrounding them. With the increased peer pressure from congressmen to get the vaccines finished, as well as shifting timelines on their release, people have had more than enough fodder to second guess the entire process.

Facebook has recently cracked down on 14 "super spreader" pages and groups, which had a large hand in disseminating conspiracy theories and antivax propaganda. However, these sources were active until last December. A lot of their posts reportedly had no fact checking labels assigned either. And thus, the fight continues, with the hope that our online sources of socialising will be more vigilant moving onwards.

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