Anti-Vaccine Group Abuses Facebook’s Algorithm To Censor A Debate


Sydney – An anti-vaccine organisation has “fraudulently” used Facebook’s own Community Standards Policy, in an attempt to censor pro-vaccine voices in a debate on their Facebook page, reported a law professor and blogger, Dorit Rubinstein Reiss.

According to Facebook’s algorithm, any post that mentions an individual’s name can be reported as violating community standards.

“[This] is particularly ironic, since many commentators, when replying to questions or comments from an individual, would use that individual’s name out of courtesy,” said Reiss.

In effect, this meant that most of the comments were removed.

“Getting someone banned from Facebook for posting polite, factual comments you disagree with is a problematic tactic,” she added, “if that’s what you have to resort to, it means that you have no credible arguments. It also reflects badly on your debating ethics.”

One of the many comments removed read simply:

“Karen, I clicked on you ABC link and it still says January 8, 2009 for me, not August 2007.”

Another removed comment read:

“Karen, I had a whooping cough booster 3 years ago. There are no babies or children even in the circles I move in. However, I use public transport and shop in supermarkets where there are little ones. Yes we vaccinate to protect ourselves but this is a community issue and my primary motivation for getting a booster was so that I wouldn’t inadvertently pass on the disease, if I got it, to someone more vulnerable than myself.”

The organisation in question, the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN), recently lost a battle to reserve their name ‘Australian Vaccination-Sceptics Network’ with the Australian Securities & Investments Commission, on the grounds that the name was misleading.

“We object to [AVN] using any variation of the term [sceptics] because sceptics gather evidence and make an informed choice. The AVN does nothing of the sort,” The Australian quoted one of the leaders of the Stop the Anti-Vaccination Network, Ken McLeod, as saying.

AVN members promote the ‘benefits’ of measles and reportedly believe that vaccines cause autism. The group has also produced a herbal product called ‘black salve’ that allegedly cures cancer.

Image Source: AVN

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