Is it shocking to anyone that the anti-vax movement’s Internet HQ is Facebook, the AOL* of the 2010’s?
The Guardian found that Facebook search results for groups and pages with information about vaccines were dominated by anti-vaccination propaganda, and that YouTube’s recommendation algorithm steers viewers from fact-based medical information toward anti-vaccine misinformation.
Facebook enables advertisers to promote content to nearly 900,000 people interested in “vaccine controversies”, the Guardian has found.
Other groups of people that advertisers can pay to reach on Facebook include those interested in “Dr Tenpenny on Vaccines”, which refers to anti-vaccine activist Sherri Tenpenny, and “informed consent”, which is language that anti-vaccine propagandists have adopted to fight vaccination laws.
For all the talk of AI and “algorithms”, the algorithm that Facebook and YouTube use is pretty simple: find out what people who care about topic X search for and watch, and give them more of it. This is a recipe for the aggregation of stupidity when there’s a lot of idiocy surrounding topic X. In the case of vaccines, only people who are looking for excuses to shore up their stupid intuitions about vaccines are searching on social media, so the social media “AI” clumps them all together and gives them a playground where their dumb shit can fester and grow. The non-stupid parents either just take their pediatrician’s word, or they use Google to find recommendations from trusted authorities like the CDC.
Zuckerberg and other tech bros say they want to do something about this, but it costs money to tune their algorithms, and it also costs money to curtail advertising. So they make noises about changing, but when I searched Google today for “facebook vaccine” the first two results that aren’t news stories are Facebook pages for anti-vax grifters (the “Vaccine Resistance Movement” and “Vactruth.com”).
These assholes need regulation.
* This isn’t really fair – AOL was where the dummies lived, but it wasn’t a stupidity concentrator.