Members of Stop Mandatory Vaccination are freaking out after hearing the news that health officials are asking Facebook to shut down their group. An article published earlier today by the Guardian shared statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics and exposed the false information shared within the groups. Larry Cook’s group, Stop Mandatory Vaccination, is prominently featured in the story, and now members are afraid their group might disappear.
In the article published this morning by the Guardian, Dr. Wendy Swanson spokeswoman for the AAP spoke out about Facebook allowing anti-vaccine groups to share inaccurate and misleading information about vaccines.
“Facebook should prioritise dealing with the threat to human health when falsehoods and misinformation are shared. This isn’t just self-harm, it’s community harm.”
Dr. Swanson went on to say she has met with Facebook to strategize about how to stop misinformation from spreading so rapidly on their platform.
“Parents deserve the truth. If they are being served up something that is not true it will likely increase their levels of anxiety and fear and potentially change their uptake of vaccines, which is dangerous,”
By late morning, the article had been posted multiple times within the group. Initially, the response by members was one of disbelief. Many suggested that Facebook was going to bend to Big Pharma. Several claimed that Big Pharma needed to suppress the groups because the groups had become too efficient at spreading the ‘truth.’
By mid-afternoon, initial reactions of disbelief and frustration changed to fear. A member posted and tagged Larry Cook about the possibility of the group shutting down.
Comments started to explode as members feared the loss of their community. Several members suggested moving their group to other social media platforms like MeWe. Other suggested using the Russian social media site VK.
Others suggested changing the name of the group. A name change wouldn’t change the fact that Facebook can still see the exchanges within the group. However, anti-vaxxers aren’t known for using logic or intelligence in their problem-solving.
While dozens of members problem solved a way to trick Facebook, others expounded that Facebook and Big Pharma were involved in an elaborate plan to suppress the truth.
Then the most disturbing comment came in the form of a link to a video shared by Dr. Tenpenny who hosts the page “Dr. Tenpenny on Vaccines and Current Videos.”
The video is 26 minutes of fear-mongering dialogue about Facebook censoring the truth about vaccines. She uploaded the video in response to the Guardian article.
She reminds her followers that banning conversations about vaccines on Facebook is a form of censorship. Tenpenny reinforces the conspiracy theory that vaccines are not checked for safety and part of the government system to control and harm people.Dr. Tenpenny is Doctor of Osteopathy. She’s all about alternative health and believes Vitamin C can provide as much protection from the measles as a vaccine. Naturally, she uses her page to promote fear-mongering information and sell her products.
As public pressure mounts on Facebook, there is no question the social media giant will have to respond. Currently, the United States is facing measles outbreaks across the country.
Clark County, Washington has 53 confirmed cases of the measles.
Rockland County, New York has reported 130 cases of the measles to the CDC.
Monroe County, New York has confirmed 7 cases of the measles.
New York City has confirmed 67 cases of measles within the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn.
Houston, Texas has seven confirmed cases of the measles.
According to the CDC, the outbreaks are a result of travelers bringing the virus back to the states after traveling to Israel and Ukraine which have large outbreaks at this time.
Vaccination rates have dropped consistently over the past five years. Facebook groups like Stop Mandatory Vaccination have provided a community that has promoted and spread fake news, conspiracy theories, and has enabled charlatans like Larry Cook to exploit and manipulate scared parents.
Anti-Vaccine propaganda spread through Facebook has real-world consequences. With five areas of the country facing outbreaks, there is no doubt more states will have outbreaks this year. Until vaccination rates around the U.S. increase, many areas remain at risk.
Larry Cook and his group members have a right to be concerned. They may be crying ‘censorship,’ but the information they share is not scientifically based nor consistent with the CDC, WHO, FDA, or any major medical organization in the world.
Vaccines continue to be safe and effective in stopping the spread of preventable illnesses.
Finally, Larry Cook’s response to members was to join his email list. Typical, Larry, very typical.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.
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