Monday December 16, 2019

Pinterest to Combat Misinformation about Vaccines by Showing Only Information from Health Organizations

Pinterest previously tried blocking all searches for vaccines, with mixed results

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Pinterest, Misinformation. Vaccines
Pinterest's logo. VOA

Pinterest said it would try to combat misinformation about vaccines by showing only information from health organizations when people search.

Social media sites have been trying to combat the spread of misinformation about vaccines. Pinterest previously tried blocking all searches for vaccines, with mixed results.

Now searches for “measles,” “vaccine safety” and related terms will bring up results from such groups as the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the WHO-established Vaccine Safety Net.

Pinterest won’t show ads or other users’ posts, as they may contain misinformation.

Pinterest, Misinformation. Vaccines
Pinterest said it would try to combat misinformation about vaccines by showing only information from health organizations when people search. Pixabay

“We’re taking this approach because we believe that showing vaccine misinformation alongside resources from public health experts isn’t responsible,” Pinterest said Wednesday in a blog post.

Though anti-vaccine sentiments have been around for as long as vaccines have existed, health experts worry that anti-vaccine propaganda can spread more quickly on social media. The misinformation includes soundly debunked notions that vaccines cause autism or that mercury preservatives and other substances in them can harm people.

Experts say the spread of such information can push parents who are worried about vaccines toward refusing to inoculate their children, leading to a comeback of various diseases.

Spike in measles cases

Also Read- WHO Warns of Serious Consequences of Measles Infections Globally

Measles outbreaks have spiked in the U.S. this year to their highest number in more than 25 years.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson blamed people “listening to that superstitious mumbo jumbo on the internet” for a rising incidence of measles in that country. The government plans to call a summit of social media companies to discuss what more they can do to fight online misinformation, though details are still being worked out.

Facebook said in March that it would no longer recommend groups and pages that spread hoaxes about vaccines and that it would reject ads that do this. But anti-vax information still slips through.

Pinterest, Misinformation. Vaccines
Social media sites have been trying to combat the spread of misinformation about vaccines. Pixabay

The WHO praised Pinterest’s move and encouraged other social media companies to follow.

Also Read- India’s Move to Ban e-cigarettes Flawed, Say Cancer Experts

“Misinformation about vaccination has spread far and fast on social media platforms in many different countries,” the statement said. “We see this as a critical issue and one that needs our collective effort to protect people’s health and lives.” (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s how People Themselves Become the Source of Misinformation

People can self-generate their own misinformation

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Sometimes, you yourself can become the source of misinformation. Pixabay

Do not blame partisan news outlets and political blogs for feeding you fake news as there’s another surprising source of misinformation on controversial topics — it is you.

A new study has found that people, given accurate statistics on a controversial issue, tended to misremember those numbers to fit commonly held beliefs.

For example, when people are shown that the number of Mexican immigrants in the US declined recently – which is true but goes against many people’s beliefs – they tend to remember the opposite.

And when people pass along this misinformation they created, the numbers can get further and further from the truth.

“People can self-generate their own misinformation. It doesn’t all come from external sources,” said Jason Coronel, lead author of the study and assistant professor of communication at The Ohio State University.

“They may not be doing it purposely, but their own biases can lead them astray. And the problem becomes larger when they share their self-generated misinformation with others”.

The researchers conducted two studies to confirm this.In the first study, they presented 110 participants with short written descriptions of four societal issues that involved numerical information.

Fake news
People generate fake news in order to fit commonly held beliefs. Pixabay

The researchers found that people usually got the numerical relationship right on the issues for which the stats were consistent with how many people viewed the world.

In the second study, the researchers investigated how these memory distortions could spread and grow more distorted in everyday life. Coronel said the study did have limitations.

For example, it is possible that the participants would have been less likely to misremember if they were given explanations as to why the numbers didn’t fit expectations.

The researchers didn’t measure each person’s biases going in – they used the biases that had been identified by pre-tests they conducted.

But the results did suggest that we shouldn’t worry only about the misinformation that we run into in the outside world, Poulsen said in a paper published in the journal Human Communication Research.

Also Read- Machine Learning Can Help Doctors to Improve End-Of-Life Conversation with Patients

“We need to realize that internal sources of misinformation can possibly be as significant as or more significant than external sources,” she said.

“We live with our biases all day, but we only come into contact with false information occasionally”. (IANS)