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March 07, 2019

Schiff Receives Official Responses from Google, Facebook Regarding Anti-Vaccine Misinformation

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) released written responses he received from Google and Facebook regarding anti-vaccine misinformation on their respective platforms.

“We have put a lot of effort into curbing misinformation in our products – from better Search ranking algorithms, to improving our ability to surface authoritative content, to tougher policies against monetization of harmful or dangerous content. Under YouTube’s Advertiser-Friendly Content Guidelines, we are and have been demonetizing anti-vaccination content under our longstanding harmful or dangerous advertising policy,” wrote Karan Bhatia, Vice President of Global Public Policy and Government Affairs at Google.

“Our approach…is to reduce the spread of inaccurate information about vaccines by reducing its distribution in News Feed, removing groups and pages that promote misinformation from recommendation surfaces, and providing authoritative information to people who might encounter it,” wrote Kevin Martin, Vice President of U.S. Public Policy at Facebook.

The scientific and medical communities are in overwhelming consensus that vaccines are both effective and safe. There is no evidence to suggest that vaccines cause life-threatening or disabling diseases, and the dissemination of unfounded and debunked theories about the dangers of vaccinations pose a great risk to public health.

Schiff recently sent letters to Google, Facebook and Amazon to express concern that the companies’ platforms are surfacing and recommending information that discourages parents from vaccinating their children, contributing to declining vaccination rates which could reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases.

“I’m pleased that all three companies are taking this issue seriously and acknowledged their responsibility to provide quality health information to their users.” Schiff said. “The responses from Google and Facebook describe the steps they are taking to address the issue of harmful public health misinformation on their platforms. Amazon has informed me they will also be responding to my letter in the coming days.

“The crucial test will be whether the steps outlined by Google and Facebook do in fact reduce the spread of anti-vaccine content on their platforms, thereby making it less likely to reach users who are simply seeking quality, fact-based health information for their children and families.

“I plan to continue working with the companies on the issue of misinformation on their platforms and monitoring the effectiveness of the changes they are making because our health, and particularly the health of our children, is at stake.”

Earlier this week, Rep. Schiff introduced the bipartisan Vaccines Save Lives resolution, recognizing the importance of vaccines and immunizations in the United States. The resolution sends a message of unequivocal Congressional support for vaccines and urges parents, in consultation with their health care providers, to follow scientific evidence and the consensus of medical experts in favor of timely vaccination for the well-being of their children and surrounding communities.