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Doctors on Facebook face harassment from anti-vaxxers

connectVideoAdvocacy group names 14 anti-vaccine ‘hot spots’ in the entire united states

The Public Library of Science, medicine publisher and advocacy organization, publishes the results of a study on non-medical vaccine exemptions.

Facebook is coming under fire because doctors are confronted with harassment on the platform by the anti-vaccination activists.

The social network, which along with Google has been criticized for enabling the anti-vaccination content to disseminate, was named in The Guardian of a pro-vaccine naturopath with the name Elias Kass, which was flooded with vitriol, after he testified before a Washington state senate committee this month in favor of a bill that would eliminate personal and philosophical exemptions for childhood vaccinations, and make them obligatory.

The doctor’s Facebook page flooded with one-star reviews, and he was reportedly called a “disgrace”, a “pedophile” and a “Nazi-pharma own.” According to the British news site, he turned off on the page user reviews, but the users were still able to write comments on posts, and Kass finally put together a photo gallery with hundreds of screenshots of offensive comments.

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“Their goal is to tell my patients what a bad person I am so I lose business,” Kass told The Guardian. “It made me reluctant to go online.”

This kind of intimidation is the latest manifestation of a movement of anti-vaxxers who spread the word and grown, partly because of Facebook’s algorithms and policies.

The Guardian reports that the harassment of Kass seems to have been inspired by two anti-vaccine activists with the name Larry Cook and Elizabeth, who have built a large following on Facebook. Cook’s Stop Mandatory Vaccination page has more than 128,000 followers and features a variety of sponsored messages purporting to show that the problems with the vaccination. There is also a Facebook group called Stop Mandatory Vaccinations with more than 150,000 members. Elizabeth’s Facebook page has more than 500,000 followers and she runs a closed Facebook group called Holistic Living Question about 53,000 members.

The World Health Organization is calling anti-vaxxers a “top global threat,” adding that “vaccine hesitancy threatens to reverse progress in the fight against vaccine-preventable diseases.”

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Both the Cook and Elizabeth posted links to Kass’ Facebook page in their own groups, along with screenshots of his testimony, The Guardian reports.

(Reuters)

Since the anti-vaccine groups are closed, the content that is placed in them, usually one-sided and the members are screened before they can join.

“It shows what a cornerstone of Facebook,” Kass told the Guardian. “That is their vehicle. Without the vehicle, who knows what they would achieve.”

When they are in contact with Fox News, the social network pointed to a series of changes it has made to the tackling of hate and disinformation, including the hiring of 30,000 about his safety and security team, and the use of machine learning and other tools to flag content that violates the policy.

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“We do not tolerate harassment on Facebook. We use a combination of AI, machine learning, and the manual control, and proactively to detect and remove harassment in our platform, including messages in groups and pages. And because we find that comments can be used for damage, we are working to give people the ability to hide or delete multiple responses at the same time,” a Facebook spokesman told Fox News by e-mail.

Kass, who was honored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for his work on childhood vaccination, told the British news that he is worried about his ability to connect with parents now that he’s been labeled as a “enemy” by these anti-vaccine groups.

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