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Facebook, Twitter and other social media firms are facing increasing pressure from lawmakers and the public to remove anti-vaccination propaganda from their platforms. ‘Vaccine hesitancy’ has been listed as the top 10 threats to Global Health in 2019 by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Following this, last week, Twitter launched a new ‘search prompt’ feature to prevent misinformation about vaccines. If a user searches for vaccines on Twitter, a prompt will lead them to a credible public health resource which will guide them to information about vaccines from authoritative sources.

Twitter’s Vice President of Trust and Safety, Del Harvey posted on her blog about this new feature. It reads, “We’re committed to protecting the health of the public conversation on Twitter — ensuring individuals can find information from authoritative sources is a key part of that mission”

With regard to this tool, if a user searches for any keyword related to vaccines, a prompt will appear on your feed which will direct individuals to a credible public health resource. For the U.S., a website by the Department of Health and Human Services, called Vaccines.gov will appear. Twitter will also not auto-suggest queries that are likely to direct individuals to non-credible commentary and information about vaccines.

         Image source: Del Harvey’s Blog

The search prompt feature will be available on iOS, Android, and mobile.twitter.com in the United States (in English and Spanish), Canada (in English and French), UK, Brazil, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, and in Spanish-speaking Latin American countries.

The new initiative will enable Twitter to guard users against the artificial amplification of non-credible content about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Twitter also ensures that their advertising content does not contain misleading claims about the cure, treatment, diagnosis or prevention of certain diseases and conditions, including vaccines.

Twitter’s new ‘search prompt’ is an extension of Twitter’s #ThereIsHelp initiative where if a user searches for terms associated with suicide or self-harm, the top search result is a prompt encouraging them to reach out for help.

These new features from social media giants come after there have been reports about Anti-Vaccine groups using social media to target parents with misinformation.  Pinterest was the first to take a strong stand against the spread of misinformation related to vaccines. In February, it blocked all vaccination related searches as the majority of shared images on Pinterest cautioned people against vaccinations. The same month, Youtube also started demonetizing channels which promoted anti-vaccination views. Also,   started placing new information panel that links to the Wikipedia entry on “vaccine hesitancy” before anti-vaccination videos. Two months ago, Facebook in its effort to minimize the spread of vaccination misinformation and to point users away from inaccurate anti-vaccination propaganda, started downranking groups and pages that spread this kind of content across both News Feed and its search function. It also started to reject ads promoting anti-vaccination misinformation. Instagram, began blocking hashtags that return anti-vaccination misinformation earlier this month.

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