Schiff calls out Facebook, Google over anti-vaccination information

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify Mueller to give extended testimony after appearance postponed Mueller testimony likely to be delayed for one week MORE (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Facebook and Google on Thursday expressing concern that their platforms recommend anti-vaccination information.

“As a Member of Congress who is deeply concerned about declining vaccination rates, I am requesting additional information on the steps that you currently take to provide medically accurate information on vaccinations to your users, and to encourage you to consider additional steps you can take to address this growing problem,” Schiff wrote to CEOs Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergBorder Patrol chief was member of secret Facebook group for agents: report Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak urges Facebook users to delete their accounts Trump's legal battles over census go public MORE and Sundar Pichai. 

“I was pleased to see YouTube’s recent announcement that it will no longer recommend videos that violate its community guidelines, such as conspiracy theories or medically inaccurate videos, and encourage further action to be taken related to vaccine misinformation.”

ADVERTISEMENT

A recent report in The Guardian that Schiff cited found Facebook and Google users are nudged toward anti-vaccination websites and groups when they seek information about vaccines on the platforms.

The companies have taken some steps toward remedying the spread of that sort of misinformation. YouTube, which is run by Google, said last month that they would work to recommend fewer videos with misinformation. Facebook made a similar pledge last July.

The World Health Organization named hesitancy over vaccinations as one of the top 10 greatest threats to global health in 2019.

Washington declared a public health emergency in the state last month because of an outbreak of measles, likely because of low vaccination rates. WHO says that incidences of measles have increased 30 percent globally.

WHO also noted that, "The reasons why people choose not to vaccinate are complex; a vaccines advisory group to WHO identified complacency, inconvenience in accessing vaccines, and lack of confidence are key reasons underlying hesitancy."

Google declined to comment on the letter.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Hill that the company is taking steps to limit the spread of misinformation on the platform.

“We are committed to accurate and useful information throughout Facebook. We remove content that violates our Community Standards, downrank articles that might be misleading, and show third-party fact-checker articles to provide people with more context," the spokesperson said.

"We have more to do, and will continue efforts to provide educational information on important topics like health,” they added.

— Updated at 2:33 p.m.