Facebook acts to remove health hype and snake oil


By Michael Woodhead

16 Jul 2019

Facebook is taking further steps to reduce the spread of false medical information on its pages and minimise the spruiking of dodgy health products.

The social media giant claims to have changed its ranking algorithm to decrease the visibility of content that contains “sensational or misleading” health information.

According to a post on Facebook’s official blog site, two changes in its rankings system were made in June to target inaccurate or ‘spammy’ content relating to health, nutrition and fitness issues.

“For the first update, we consider if a post about health exaggerates or misleads — for example, making a sensational claim about a miracle cure,” the company said.

“For the second update, we consider if a post promotes a product or service based on a health-related claim — for example, promoting a medication or pill claiming to help you lose weight.”

Facebook stressed that it won’t be blocking or removing any low-quality content based on health claims, but would instead be reducing distribution and featuring it lower down on news feeds.

It said it will identify misleading and promotional health content by looking for key phrases and ranking these posts lower on its rankings.

The social media siye said the move against dodgy health content was part of its wider strategy called “remove, reduce, and inform” to manage problematic content.

Earlier in 2019 Facebook took action to reduce the distribution of anti-vaccination content.

In February the company announced it would reduce the ranking of groups and pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations in News Feed and Search. Similar moves would be made to reduce the visibility of anti-vaccination content on the Facebook-owned Instagram site.

Facebook said it would no longer accept ads that include misinformation about vaccinations and would block fundraising tools for pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations.

However, some alternative health sites are already using the Facebook ‘ban’ as a selling point, claiming that major corporations in cahoots with Big Pharma are trying to censor the ‘truth’ about natural remedies.

Mike Adams, whose pages for Natural News were taken down by Facebook and Google for spamming, called on Donald Trump to break up the social media and search engine companies.

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