Facebook said Tuesday that it would no longer allow anti-vaccination advertisements on its platform, which is another reversal of its longstanding stance of not being the arbiter on sensitive issues.
Facebook had previously shied away from entering into public health debates despite the proliferation of anti-vaccination content on its website. This year, however, false information related to the coronavirus was cracked down to prevent public harm. It also removed vaccine-related hoaxes identified by global health organizations.
In its updated policy on Tuesday, Facebook went further. The company said it would no longer allow individuals or organizations to purchase ads that actively discourage people from getting vaccinated or that portray the vaccines as unsafe, useless, or with other harmful descriptions.
"Our goal is to get vaccine safety and efficacy news that reaches a wide audience while banning misinformation ads that could harm public health efforts," said Kang-Xing Jin , Head of health initiatives at Facebook, in a company blog post. "We don't want these ads on our platform."
Facebook, which has been under pressure to leak toxic and harmful misinformation through its website, has recently banned an increasing amount of content. On Monday, the company announced that it would no longer accept jobs that deny the existence of the Holocaust. Last week, the company expanded crackdown on the pro-Trump conspiracy movement QAnon, announcing that it would suspend political advertising for an unspecified period after the November 3 elections.
The number of content and advertising bans is noteworthy, as Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has long stated that he is an advocate of free speech and enabling all types of content to be posted on the social network. Facebook failed to address its position on free speech on Tuesday.
Facebook has been checked for the amount of conspiracy theories and propaganda against vaccination. Those against vaccines have been very active on Facebook, working in private Facebook groups and Instagram accounts. The Tuesday move will not remove any user-generated content.
The company will continue to allow ads that oppose the creation of government vaccination guidelines, but the companies that run those ads must be "authorized," Facebook said. These ads include a "Paid" label next to the organization's name.
Mr. Jin also said Facebook will increase contributions from World Health Organization partners and UNICEF to increase vaccination rates through public health messaging campaigns.
The social network positioned its policy change as part of the regular re-evaluation of content across the website.
"We regularly refine our approach to social-related ads to capture debates and discussions on sensitive topics on Facebook," Jin said on the blog post. “Vaccines are no different. While we can limit enforcement in some areas, we can expand it in other areas. "