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Social Networking Giant Facebook Allows Ads to Promote Anti-vaccine Content

“We’re currently working on additional changes that we’ll be announcing soon.”

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This photograph taken on May 16, 2018, shows a figurine standing in front of the logo of social network Facebook on a cracked screen of a smartphone in Paris. VOA

Facebook has enabled advertisers to promote anti-vaccine content to nearly nine lakh people interested in “vaccine controversies”, the media reported.

The social networking giant is already facing pressure to stop promoting anti-vaccine propaganda to users amid global concern over vaccine hesitancy and a measles outbreak in the Pacific northwest.

Advertisers pay to reach groups of people on Facebook which 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, The Guardian reported on Friday.

On Thursday, California congressman Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, in letters to Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, urged them to take more responsibility for health-related misinformation on their platforms.

“The algorithms which power these services are not designed to distinguish quality information from misinformation or misleading information, and the consequences of that are particularly troubling for public health issues,” Schiff wrote.

“I am concerned by the report that Facebook accepts paid advertising that contains deliberate misinformation about vaccines,” he added.

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Facebook, social media. Pixabay

In 2017, ProPublica, a US-based non-profit organisation, revealed that the platform included targeting categories for people interested in a number of anti-Semitic phrases, such as “How to burn Jews” or “Jew hater”.

While the anti-Semitic categories found by ProPublica were automatically generated and were too small to run effective ad campaigns by themselves, the “vaccine controversies” category contains nearly nine lakh people, and “informed consent” from about 340,000. The Tenpenny category only includes 720 people, which is too few to run a campaign.

Facebook declined to comment on the ad targeting categories, but said it was looking into the issue, The Guardian reported.

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“We’ve taken steps to reduce the distribution of health-related misinformation on Facebook, but we know we have more to do,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement responding to Schiff’s letter.

“We’re currently working on additional changes that we’ll be announcing soon.” (IANS)

Next Story

Social Media Giant Facebook Sues Chinese Company Over Alleged ad Fraud

According to a report in CNET, Facebook said it has paid more than $4 million in reimbursements to victims of these hacks

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An iPhone displays the app for Facebook in New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2019. VOA

Facebook has sued a Chinese company for allegedly tricking people into installing a malware, compromising peoples accounts and then using them to run deceptive ads.

Facebook blamed ILikeAd Media International Company Ltd. and two individuals associated with the company — Chen Xiao Cong and Huang Tao – for the fraud.

The defendants deceived people into installing malware available on the Internet. This malware then enabled the defendants to compromise people’s Facebook accounts and run deceptive ads promoting items such as counterfeit goods and diet pills, the social media giant said in a blog post.

The defendants sometimes used images of celebrities in their ads to entice people to click on them, a practice known as “celeb bait”, according to the lawsuit filed on Wednesday.

In some instances, the defendants also engaged in a practice known as cloaking, Facebook said.

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The social media application, Facebook is displayed on Apple’s App Store, July 30, 2019. VOA

“Through cloaking, the defendants deliberately disguised the true destination of the link in the ad by displaying one version of an ad’s landing page to Facebook’s systems and a different version to Facebook users,” said Facebook’s Jessica Romero, Director of Platform Enforcement and Litigation and Rob Leathern, Director of Product Management, Business Integrity.

Cloaking schemes are often sophisticated and well organised, making the individuals and organisations behind them difficult to identify and hold accountable.

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As a result, there have not been many legal actions of this kind.

“In this case, we have refunded victims whose accounts were used to run unauthorised ads and helped them to secure their accounts,” they wrote.

According to a report in CNET, Facebook said it has paid more than $4 million in reimbursements to victims of these hacks. (IANS)