[Skip to Navigation]
September 3, 2019

Government Role in Regulating Vaccine Misinformation on Social Media Platforms

Author Affiliations
  • 1School of Nursing, Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement, George Washington University, Washington, DC
  • 2Milken Institute School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management, George Washington University, Washington, DC
  • 3School of Engineering and Applied Science, Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, George Washington University, Washington, DC
  • 4University of California Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco
JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(11):1011-1012. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.2838

Freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental rights in the United States. The challenges of balancing free speech against harms caused by misinformation on social media are well illustrated by antivaccine activists, who claim that vaccines cause death or other harmful adverse effects against the evidence. These activists use social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to share misleading information supporting their views on vaccines. In fact, half of all parents with children younger than 5 years have been exposed to misinformation about vaccines on social media.1 A 2019 study1 even found that neutral searches of the word vaccine by a new user with no friends or likes yielded overwhelmingly antivaccine content unsupported by science both on Facebook and YouTube. This misinformation contributes to an increase in unvaccinated children and undermining of herd immunity, pertinent to recent measles outbreaks.1 Reacting to this reality, the World Health Organization added “vaccine hesitancy” to its list of the “10 Threats to Global Health in 2019.”2 Because high rates of vaccination benefit society and antivaccine misinformation causes harm to the most vulnerable,1 governments should do more to combat misinformation and communicate the benefits of vaccination.

Add or change institution