Pinterest introduces feature to tackle vaccine misinformation

29 Aug 2019104 Views

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Pinterest users searching for terms relating to vaccines will now be provided with reliable, science-based information from global health experts.

On Wednesday (28 August), Pinterest announced that it would provide users searching for vaccine-related terms with reliable, science-based information from the World Health Organisation (WHO), among others.

In a statement, Pinterest outlined updates to its health misinformation policy.

In 2018, the social media company stopped showing results for searches related to vaccines to prevent people from encountering harmful health misinformation, but it has updated this policy and will now offer information from experts on the subject.

The company said: “More than 300 million people come to Pinterest every month to get inspired and find ideas, from easy weeknight meals to crafts to do with kids. We believe a health life is an inspired life, and today we have an update on our efforts to combat health misinformation.”

Pinterest said that from now on, when users search for terms such as ‘measles’, ‘vaccine safety’ or other terms relating to vaccinations, the platform will present them with “reliable results” about immunisation from leading public health organisations.

These organisations include the WHO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Vaccine Safety Net.

Pinterest added: “Health misinformation has the potential to impact public health, regardless of what service it’s found on. Allowing this content to spread through Pinterest’s search results is not in line with enforcing our community guidelines. That’s why we’re limiting search results to internationally recognised health organisations.”

This policy had previously also prohibited the promotion of false cures for terminal or chronic illnesses and anti-vaccination advice, banning users from saving content that includes advice where there may be immediate and detrimental effects for either individual or public safety.

Cuts to healthcare funding

The number of measles cases in Europe has surged in recent months. Today (29 August), PA reported that a panel of experts from WHO met in Warsaw this summer to evaluate reports from 53 countries.

These reports highlighted that 90,000 cases of the disease were reported in the first half of 2019, which is more than was recorded in the entirety of 2018 (84,462).

PA reported that the UK is one of four European countries to have lost its measles elimination status this year. The other three countries witnessing a large volume of measles cases are Albania, Czech Republic and Greece.

Prof Martin Marshall, vice-chair of the Royal College of GPs, called the findings “disheartening”. “While take-up of the MMR vaccination across the UK is still high, it is not high enough, and we have actually seen a small decline in recent years,” he said.

Earlier this month, The Guardian published an opinion piece by Dr Doug Brown, chief executive of the British Society for Immunology. In this article, he wrote that social media is not entirely to blame for the surge in measles cases.

Brown’s real concern was the massive funding cuts to the NHS in recent years, claiming that the organisation’s fragmented services were largely to blame for the rise in measles cases.

“The ambition of the NHS’s long-term plan and No 10’s recent announcement on plans to improve vaccine uptake are to be commended, and are a welcome move in the right direction,” he wrote

“However, these interventions require adequate funding levels and a reversal of the public health funding cuts enacted over the past decade.”

Brown pointed out that previous measles outbreaks have cost more than 20 times more to treat than the vaccinations that could have prevented them.

Kelly Earley is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com