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    • Would you love to be a fly on the wall inside Facebook as they debate this? I would. I wonder what they say?

      It must be an incredibly heated debate. On the one hand, these groups are very popular and as big as 150,000 members. On the other, the company faces a lot of heat for them at a time they probably feel like they don't need any more heat:

      If they do close the groups, do you think they'll just move to forums?

      Gratuitous pic: Dr. Jenner performing the first vaccine in 1796.

    • If only it was that simple, and there was really no reason for public mistrust in the so called health industry. To them it's just loss of business so any deviation must be combated. Same as cigarette tax having nothing to do with health intentions. So the interesting part would be to know who is behind each camp. Facebook is in it for the money, just like everyone else.

    • Facebook is in it for the money, just like everyone else.

      I don’t know. I don’t think Wikipedia is in it for the money, are they?

      Pinterest explicitly calls out in their terms no promotion of anti vaccine ideas. Perhaps they decided that was good for their brand and ultimately more profitable?

    • Perhaps they decided that was good for their brand and ultimately more profitable?

      No, they simply did what was morally right! But those anti vaccine manifestants pictures in the OP show a group of people not against vaccines per se, rather against those being forced upon population by big pharma. Not sure how true that is or a danger for the future, but that's a huge difference, letting people choose their lives, having a choice and helping them understand how to make it. Sure there are idiots who won't vaccinate when usually normal to do so, but the point is understanding why and accepting it, not weaponizing opinions by way of perception distortion, via facebook et al.

      I am not sure how all this ties into ads and monetizing (and get sick of just thinking), but the thing is one can't run a speech avenue without responsibility and not being extremely sensitive of content. If in the old days of print news that was difficult, even though there was no near real time two way dialog such as it is today in social media, today that has dramatically changed and the game has to change too. Because the influence of speech can take unexpected and damaging turns, and it does.

    • It's a difficult situation on one hand you have freedom of speech and on the other public health.

      The miss-information spread by some anti-vax groups borders on criminal.

      Unfortunately many of the parents today have never met a polio sufferer or seen a smallpox outbreak.

      Governments around the world in conjunction with the WHO should do a mass advertising program to counter the anti-vaxers.

      Facebook has a public interest role but as Dracula says they are in it for the money, personally I'd like to see Zuckerberg make a personal stand on this, it would be interesting to see the reaction on both sides if he did.

    • The goal behind inaccurate and conspiracy theory-laden tweets like these was less to state a public opinion on vaccines specifically and more to polarize public opinion in general, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health. 

      And behind the campaign was a familiar culprit: Russian trolls.

      Among their findings: Russian troll accounts and sophisticated bots tweeted about vaccination significantly more often than average users.

      (source: US News & World Report)

      The study was released in October of last year, which is disconcerting. And based on the Guardian article it is creating a world health crisis:

      The World Health Organization (WHO) lists “vaccine hesitancy” – reluctance to vaccinate – as one of the top 10 global health threats in 2019.

      So what could Facebook do right now?

      Education. Every day for a month, autoplay these videos on the timelines of anti-vaxxer closed group members.

      From Penn & Teller

      There are more parents afraid of gluten than smallpox

      There’s a time to admit I’ve been wrong about vaccines. That time is April 1st.”

    • I think the key is understanding what or who is behind the anti vaccine fear monger and for what reasons. All the indignation in the world won't help one single millimeter if people take one sided approach. Fact is, stupidity can and does hurt, the most vulnerable ones.

    • Fact is, stupidity can and does hurt, the most vulnerable ones.

      I think we’re on the same side on this.

      People in my experience aren’t stupid. More often than not, they don’t know what to believe; and consequently, they choose to have faith in the wisdom of a community member (friends, family, Facebook group members).

      I know someone who’s father was on hospice and was seriously considering paying $500 for a homeopathic cure for cancer.

      I also know many kind-hearted souls who spend ridiculous sums of money on over-priced essential oils in the belief that it will boost their immune system to fight off sickness and disease.

      It frustrates the fuck out of me that there’s nothing I can do in person to convince people not to fall for pseudo science crap such as anti-vaxxer beliefs.

      I would like to believe that comedy is a good way to reach people with an entrenched view. But maybe a more understanding approach would work better. There’s a story in an old book, If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him. A traveller wanders into a village where the locals fear tomatoes and consider them monsters. The traveler shows them that tomatoes are harmless by eating one. The locals now fear the traveler and so kill him. A month later, another traveler enters the village. He becomes one of them and shares their fears. But gradually he becomes a bellwether, suggesting they hunt the tomatoes. After several raiding party successes, he gains group consensus on devouring their enemy. Over time, the fear of tomatoes is forgotten by the village.

    • My impression is some things are naturally terrifying, like air travel, so we feel compelled to go to extremes to ensure flight safety. Cars aren't terrifying so we shrug and text while driving.

      Vaccines have always had a terrifying, mysterious element to them, long before big pharma was a thing. Whereas we just shrug about pain killers.

      I read Roger McNamee's book, Zucked, and the dynamics of Facebook Groups are particularly fascinating. For example, it's human psychology to feel validated when you meet someone who shares your beliefs. When it's 150,000 people in a closed group which excludes people who don't share your view, it's incredibly validating and group psychology rules the day.

    • If they do close the groups, do you think they'll just move to forums?

      Most arguments have already been exchanged, so I'd like to focus on just this question.

      In my opinion, for many people Facebook is the only form of digital communication they can handle. Facebook makes it easy to sign in, to join a group of like-minded people, to stay informed about their content and to participate themselves (even if that is just clicking the thumbs-up icon on all posts).

      Force people to move elsewhere, and you've suddenly created a funnel with four breaking points (five if you count the fact that these people would need to agree on a platform in the first place), which in combination will lead to much less interaction and visibility than before.

    • I don’t use Facebook but I was curious whether this screen shot was real.

      So I went to Google and entered this into the search bar


      and it returned search result after search result of anti-vaxxer disinformation. Incredibly disheartening as it illustrates the magnitude of the problem.

    • Chris, if it wasn’t for the typeface, I could easily have believed that the signs were from recent anti-vaxxer protests in the UK.

      One weakness of group think is that teenagers tend to develop their own trusted communities that challenge accepted parental beliefs.

      Should efforts to counter anti-vaccine beliefs focus more on educating young adults, in order to break the cycle of generational non-vaccination?

    • You'll notice that two of the anti-vaccine articles in your screenshot above are from Natural News. They are a well-documented fake news site that google de-listed a couple years ago:

      The question is why would Google de-list them and Facebook keep them at the top of their search results? Here's a story from yesterday on Natural News:

    • It's a good point. According to this article, many anti-vaxxers are smart, college-educated people:

      She correctly points out that one of the risks of vaccines is fainting. Research shows that the #1 risk of vaccines (and blood tests) is fainting and suffering an injury from a fall. It may sound like a joke and I'm sure many people will roll their eyes, but a young woman in my family did suffer head trauma after a blood test from fainting and falling out of the chair they placed her in when she grew light-headed.

    • Venipucture ( drawing blood ) and sub cutaneous or intramuscular injections ( shots like vaccinations ) are commonly thought by the public to "cause" fainting - but what really happens is that anxiety slows the heart rate down, the blood pressure falls, and then blood flow to the brain declines sharply, and the lights go out in the anxious victim. People should not receive injections or blood drawing while standing, but sitting comfortably on a horizontal examination table where they can lie down if they feel light headed, and attended during and after the procedure by another knowledgeable person.

      The treatment is to get the fainted person horizontal, on the ground or a sofa, and elevate their legs higher than their heart - this will increase blood return to the heart from the great leg veins, and increase cardiac output to the individual's brain which is no longer 1.5 feet higher than their heart. Almost everyone wakes up promptly with this maneuver. I am always amazed how many folks - general public and some health care personnel do not seem aware of this. Fainting may be more common in young fit individuals, especially if their resting heart rate is very slow - say 45-55 or so. Preventing injuries from falling due to fainting should be obvious!

      I used to see several folks every year who would faint when I began to measure their introcular pressure with the blue light tonometer at a slit lamp. Again, due to anxiety, not the procedure itself - Laying them down, and getting a assistant to raise their legs above their heart in a modest, sensitive manner promptly helped them recover. Folks in dresses should have a blanket placed over them before raising their legs for their modesty, and to prevent other misunderstandings - a female assistant can be helpful for this.

      My wife and I were returning from a trip to South Africa years ago, and we were seated several rows apart on the airplane, at the end of along day in the field. My wife was found unconscious in her seat shortly after takeoff, and the stewardess was doing vigorous sternal rubs on her chest to awaken her without success, and yelling for Physicians on board, and discussing returning the airplane to the airport in South Africa. A cardiologist was examing her, but had not moved her. When I manged to climb back over several rows to her, I physically picked her up and laid her down on the floor in the aisle, and lifted her legs - within 20-30 seconds she was awake, and embarrassed to have distressed every one. I was quite relieved that she had not had a heart attack or stroke, but a simple vagal fainting episode contributed to by sitting immobile in a small airplane seat, a bit dehydrated, and her anxiety about flying ( which I knew very well ). We were able to continue the flight to Atlanta as planned, and I am sure the other 250 people on board were quite relieved as well.

      I need to ask my veterinarian if they ever see animals faint from venipucture - I doubt they do.

      I hesitate to mention that pharmaceutical firms cannot require anyone to get vaccinated - they do not and cannot make laws - elected legislatures however can, and do sometimes legislate the requirements for vaccination - like Rabies vaccination for dogs. Obviously it is good to protect ones canine friend, but it is also very important to protect the public from the rabies virus in an innocent harbor. I wonder if someone, who refuses vaccination, could be held legally liable if they then contract the preventable disease, and transmit it to someone else, just like if my dog became rabid due to my failing to get it vaccinated and then it bit someone. ( My dog is vaccinated for rabies annually or as suggested by my vet)

      Herd immunity is also very important, and an under appreciated, benefit of modern life.

      How society, and their elected law makers, balance the need for public safety versus individual choice and freedoms is complex, and can lead to high emotions by both sides of the pro vs con vaccination groups. These are complex issues, that don't lead themselves to simple decisions by reading a bit on google. But when the American Medical Assn or other medical professional and public health organisations make a recommendation, it should be given very serious consideration by the public and by lawmakers. When the public does not even understand fainting, it is hard to believe they will understand the many complexities of modern preventive medicine.

      The successful elimination of smallpox is a miracle almost no one alive today even remembers any more - due largely to vaccination not giving the virus any safe harbor.

    • Wow that was good, Pathfinder. I learned something today that feels very important.

      Smallpox. The best estimates seem to be 300 million horrible deaths from Smallpox in the 19th century. And yet, according to Harvard, vaccines met with violent resistance:

    • I watched the videos apm posted, super funny and the Jimmy Kimmel one got almost 7 million views so far.

      In the comment sections on YouTube some believers in vaccines causing autism are very angry. Other commenters try to talk to them about evidence and it just seems to make them more angry.

      I wonder what it's like to work at WHO and have to report that 89,000 children died of measles last year.

    • Here are my highlights from the Harvard article on the eradication of small pox.


      Smallpox is passed on by respiratory droplets from an infected individual.

      The infection begins in the upper respiratory (nasal passages), moves to the bloodstream and then finally the skin.

      Innoculation vs Vaccine

      Edward Jenner developed the small pox vaccine in the West in the late 1700s.  However, inoculation was common in India, Africa and Turkey way before its introduction into Western civilization: in China, innoculations occurred in 1000 B.C.

      What’s the difference between “innoculation” and “vaccination”?  Innoculation uses smallpox itself. The vaccine originally used the less deadly cowpox and now Vaccinia Virus is used.

      Cotton Mather and the Colonies

      Cotton Mather was a major promoter of small box innoculation in the American Colonies.  He learned of it from one of his slaves from Africa, where it was in common use.

      During the epidemic of 1721, only 2% of those inoculated died compared to 15% of those who didn’t inoculate.

      Introduction of Vaccines

      Vaccinations were introduced in the late 18th Century and replaced innoculations because they were more effective.

    • After reading the article, it is not amazing to me how doubt has come to plague minds of many educated people, in this regard. And to my mind, again, their reason is lack of trust in a society with a health system which by and large quite visibly puts profit in front, over everything else, so much so that even when they aren't rapacious no one believes them any more. It's truly sad.

      I am watching an interesting documentary, which at first may not appear related to our conversation topic. Not directly.

      somewhere towards the third part, there is an approach of the topic and commentaries of how medicine is sometimes created to solve problems that don't actually exist in all patients, rather they induce some of the problems in order to perpetuate consuming pills which are then artificially raised in price hundreds of times over the true cost. Also in my personal experience, what an US based doctor will prescribe vs. European one, is highly biased. And I just can't understand how medicine can be so different on the two continents.

    • This is one of the best posts I’ve read here on Cake. Absolutely brilliant. I came away from the read feeling smarter and more knowledgeable about a lot of things.

      Thank you 🙏

    • And to my mind, again, their reason is lack of trust in a society with a health system which by and large quite visibly puts profit in front, over everything else

      You might be right but I wonder if that's an American perspective. Anti-vax sentiment seems to be particularly strong in Europe and Australia in countries with strong free health care systems.

    • David Gorski of ScienceBlogs, called Natural News "one of the most wretched hives of scum and quackery on the Internet," and the most "blatant purveyor of the worst kind of quackery and paranoid anti-physician and anti-medicine conspiracy theories anywhere on the Internet".

      Characterized as a "conspiracy-minded alternative medicine website", Natural News has approximately 7 million unique visitors per month.


      Seven million unique visitors a month(!).  Please tell me that there aren’t seven million people who believe that website.  Perhaps they’re all Russian bots?

      I wonder how much ad revenue Facebook gets from allowing anti-vaxxer groups to flourish.  Does Facebook allow anti-vaxxer websites to run ads on their platform?

    • Mike Adams, the owner of Natural News, got three strikes on YouTube. The first was for hosting a Sandy Hook truther who said no one died at Sandy Hook and it was a false flag. His channel was eventually deleted.

      However, other YouTubers host him for interviews and you can see he comes across as a nice, very credible guy who looks excellent for his age. There are tons of adoring comments about the interview on YouTube.

      I listened to the first 5 minutes and couldn't listen to any more because he talked about how he grew up in an age where no one linked food to health. It's just completely made up. Moms everywhere encouraged their kids to eat their vegetables, Jack Lalanne had one of the most popular TV shows and he was all about good nutrition, even popeye ate his spinach to get stronger.

      My grandmother and mother used to take me to huge faith-healer conventions and they were packed with adoring fans, so I guess we shouldn't be surprised.

    • It's really weird, what is happening imho. In my childhood no one ever questioned or refused when we were being vaccinated, it was part of school activities just like gym classes. Our parents certainly never did doubt the medical system. So who is now to blame and more importantly, what to do? Is it something else causing the attitude change in public, or because perhaps some of social media helping evangelize bad ideas? And by the way, after seeing it all, I question also that documentary because it has a large dose of "shamanism" or "miraculous healing" that kind of makes no sense.

    • pharmaceutical firms cannot require anyone to get vaccinated - they do not and cannot make laws - elected legislatures however can, and do sometimes legislate the requirements for vaccination

      I am thinking some part of the problem is when pharma becomes investment for huge profit, which in turn has connections to legislation, that things get real fuzzy..