Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

12.09 2 Mar 2019


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A Fine Gael TD has called on Facebook to 'take responsibility' for the impact of false claims about vaccination being published on its platform.

Kate O'Connell said the social network urgently needs to address the issue as children's lives are being put at risk.

It comes as recemt figures from UNICEF show that cases of measles in Ireland last year increased by almost 250% compared to 2017.

Figures cases of mumps have also gone up.

Both have vaccines available, with most children receiving two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.

Any claims of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism have been widely discredited.

Decline in vaccination

In a statement earlier this week, UNICEF Ireland's Peter Power said: “Measles may be the disease, but, all too often, the real infection is misinformation, mistrust and complacency."

Deputy O'Connell, meanwhile, said Facebook is feeding into the misinformation.

She raised concerns about the issue in The Times Ireland edition today.

The Dublin TD, who is also a pharmacist, told Newstalk: "[Anti-vaccination information] has resulted in a decline in vaccination - which we have seen globally, but in Ireland in particular.

"Measles is a very, very serious condition - it kills babies, and it can render children blind or deaf.

"If we see it emerging again to any great extent, we will have reduced herd immunity and [it] will have serious impacts on our population's health."

She suggested social media companies should make it very clear to users what is peer-reviewed data and what is opinion or sponsored content.

She added: "I wouldn't be suggesting we try to stop people's freedom of speech, but [instead make sure] that it's very, very clear to users the source of the data."

In a statement last month, Facebook said it had taken steps to "reduce the distribution of health-related misinformation".

However, it admitted it had more to do - adding that it is working on additional changes.

A number of social networks have already taken action against such content.

YouTube confirmed last week that it will not allow ads on videos that "promote anti-vaccination content".

Main image: Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell. Image: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

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