“There are hundreds of anti-vaccine groups on Facebook, all acting as echo-chambers, reinforcing vaccine myths and reinforcing these ideas with no scientific or medical basis … Facebook has a social responsibility to ensure fake news is not spread. Vaccine myths are fake news and only serve to damage the reputation of science and medicine in society.”
These powerful paragraphs are taken from an Australian man, David Brand, and his growing Change.org campaign. The 31-year-old man from Brisbane, who spends his days working in IT, and is stirring a very big, very important pot that’s rapidly gaining traction.
The petition already has 33, 000 signatures
David’s interest in silencing the voices of the anti-vaccine movement comes from an intrinsic need to prevent the spread of false information.
“I got frustrated by all false information being spread in Facebook and arguing on them and then I’d get kicked out of for arguing,” says David. “When someone argues against the false information, they get kicked out.”
David said the Rotary association’s effective campaign against polio also inspired his cause.
“I spent many years involved with Rotary. They’ve had a 20-year campaign to end polio and they’re constantly reporting on that. And each year, another country is polio-free. Their work is inspiring,” says David.
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“I decided on a Change.org petition because they’re quite accessible and I started sharing it. Not a lot happened for six months, but in the past four weeks it has really taken off.”
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Demanding action from the big social media companies
At the time of writing, David’s petition has 33,000 signatures (well, 33,001 as I just signed it) and apparently his ultimate goal is 200,000 signatures.
“Facebook won’t take us seriously unless we hit a number like that,” he says.
The ultimate outcome for David though is ensuring that the big social media companies take some action.
“Youtube has already banned all anti-vax content, Etsy has banned any anti-vax products being sold,” says David.
“Facebook has demoted some of its anti-vax groups but they are still the biggest sharing network for this false information. They need to open the closed groups, or close them altogether and point people to the real information.”
‘Frustrated by false information’
While the Change.org petition doesn’t reveal any demographic information, David says from reading the comments most of the signatories have a scientific or medical background.
“They’re also just people who are completely frustrated by the false information being spread about vaccination,” says David.
David hopes his petition will continue to grow and ultimately target the “hundreds of anti-vaccine groups on Facebook, all acting as echo-chambers,” he said.
“If Facebook was to remove these pages or clamp down on them, it would make a massive difference.”