Anti-vax Facebook pages a threat to kids' health - UK health bosses

Facebook is putting children's lives at risk by allowing the spread of anti-vaccination lies, according to UK health bosses.

They want the social media giant to filter out false information linking vaccines to autism and other conditions, reports The Independent.

"The consequence of publishing misleading information is a genuine risk to the public's health," Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, told the paper.

"You only have to look at the widespread panic and confusion that was caused by unfounded linking the MMR vaccine to autism in the 1990s."

The doctor who wrote the fraudulent 1998 paper - which was later withdrawn by its publisher - has since been banned from practising as a doctor. But a film he directed, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, has kept the false claims in the public eye.

The UK has had a surge in measles cases this year, which health officials blame on the spread of inaccurate information.

"We were on the brink of eradicating [measles]," said Prof Stokes-Lampard.

The Royal Society for Public Health told The Independent searches for vaccine-related information on Facebook were far more likely to bring up anti-vaccine pages than legitimate information.

There have been deaths linked to vaccines, but they are very rare and often the result of prior medical conditions or contamination, according to Dr Helen Petousis-Harris,  director of research at the Immunisation Advisory Centre in Auckland.

"It's never happened in New Zealand," she told Stuff earlier this month after two infants died after being vaccinated.

Herd immunity - getting more than 95 percent of people immunised - is important to protect those who can't be vaccinated, stopping the disease from spreading.

Facebook is also under fire in the UK for spreading "harmful and misleading" material, particularly ahead of the Brexit referendum.

"They must be made responsible, and liable," MP Damian Collins said, suggesting the site should be forced to pay a levy to cover the cost of regulating it.


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