Proponents of vaccination find new ways to bypass Facebook’s ban on false claims in advertisements
A recent Facebook advertising campaign promoting a leaflet about whooping cough “vaccine controversy” has criticized possible violations of the spirit, if not the exact letter, of Facebook’s policy against publishing misinformation about vaccines in advertisements.
The advertisements come from Earthley, a wellness company that sells natural health and beauty products.
Earthley also promotes some of its own products as treatments for whooping cough, including elderberry elixir, vitamin C powder and various herbal blends.
A new advertising campaign on Facebook has bypassed the social media giant’s ban on misinformation about vaccines by promoting a whooping cough guide that promises to explain “controversy” about vaccination
Since December 9, the company has been displaying a series of advertisements on Facebook promoting “A Guide to Pertussis (Whooping Cough)”.
The guide promises to help parents understand the symptoms and treatment options for the airway disorder, which kills 160,000 people annually.
It also claims to address a controversy related to the practice of vaccinating people for whooping cough.
“Is the vaccine the best option? And if not, what then? Is one of Earthely’s advertisements for his whooping cough guide, as reported by BuzzFeed.
Another ad says: “Click below for a FREE guide to Pertussis, including: Vaccine Controversy.”
According to BuzzFeed, the guide wrongly claims that whooping cough vaccines contain aluminum levels that can cause neurological damage.
Earthley responded to the report about their dubious advertising campaign with a message on Facebook with a wrong characterization of a CDC report about whooping cough in his comments
When contacted about the ads, a Facebook representative said the company’s ads did not violate his new anti-vaccination propaganda policy, as announced in March 2019.
WHAT IS FACEBOOK’S PLAN TO ENTER ANTI-VAX PROPAGANDA?
In a blog post on March 7, Facebook vice president Monika Bickert, Global Policy Management, outlined a number of steps that the company is now taking to reduce misinformation about vaccines.
- Reduce the ranking of groups and pages that disseminate incorrect information about the vaccine
- Refusal of advertisements, including incorrect information about vaccines
- Remove related targeting options, such as ‘vaccine controversies’
- Remove this content from recommended pages in Instagram Explore or hashtags
- Providing ‘authoritative information’ on the subject of vaccines
“Facebook has no policy that prohibits advertising based on the fact that it is against vaccine,” a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed.
“Our policy is to ban advertisements that contain incorrect information about vaccines.”
Although the information in the guide itself may meet Facebook standards for misinformation about vaccines, an ad that promotes the guide without specifying any of the claims does not.
According to Peter Hotez, an MD and professor of pediatrics at the University of Baylor, the whooping cough vaccine is “safe, it doesn’t cause autism, it doesn’t cause everything else they talk about.”
“It is very protective and can save your child’s life.”
In a Facebook post that responds to the BuzzFeed article, Earthley refers to a report about whooping cough from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, arguing that the vaccine is questionable because four times as many vaccinated people get the disease as non-vaccinated people.
However, Earthley’s claim does not accurately reflect the findings of the CDC report.
Of the 3,862 reported cases of whooping cough in children between the ages of six months and six years, 62 percent were patients with unknown vaccination history who had not been vaccinated or had not completed the full course of vaccination.
Only 38 percent, or 1,463 cases, came from children who had completed a complete DTaP vaccination for whooping cough.
“As protection against DTaP diminishes over time, even children who are aware of their whooping cough vaccines can get pertussis,” the report explains.
“Unvaccinated children are more likely to contract pertussis and have a more serious illness than children who have been fully vaccinated.”
Another CDC report addresses concerns about the aluminum content in vaccines, which is no more than 0.85 mg per dose.
For comparison, the CDC says that the average American adult consumes between 7 mg and 9 mg of aluminum daily from a variety of food sources, including flour, baking powder, colorants or anti-caking agents.
A single aspirin tablet contains between 10 and 20 mg of aluminum and a single antacid capsule can contain between 104 mg and 208 mg of aluminum.
“Aluminum is one of the most common metals in nature and is present in air, food and water,” says the CDC report.
“Scientific research has shown that the amount of aluminum exposure in people following the recommended vaccination schedule is low and is not easily absorbed by the body.”