Posted by: richarlm | March 27, 2019


The following is a transcript of a recent Research That Matters piece on vaccine search results on Pinterest. Listen to this segment and the rest of the show “The Effects of Racism on Health.”

Dr. Adam Goldstein: Let’s talk about our next Research That Matters and it’s about Pinterest. Do you go on Pinterest Shannon?

Dr. Shannon Ames: I used to a lot.

Dr. Adam Goldstein: You used to. Well you wouldn’t be alone. 80% of mothers and 38% of fathers are on Pinterest. And I’ve been on it. My daughter got me interested in it. And there are over 215 million monthly active users. That alone is not a problem. Why do we care about things like Pinterest, and in this case, vaccinations?

Dr. Shannon Ames: Well it seems that people have been using Pinterest to promote their anti-vaccination beliefs.

Dr. Adam Goldstein: Yeah. This is interesting because it’s a platform of communicating, in this case, a lot of times to young mothers who might have young children. And it appears that it’s been particularly active as a platform for what you might call vaccination doubters – people who don’t believe the vaccination data, to put out articles, to put out news. Many of which, maybe not all, but many of which are false, they would be called fake news at some level. And there was pressure actually put on Pinterest and they decided to actually change the way they allow vaccine search results in order to curb the spread of misinformation. What did they do?

Dr. Shannon Ames: It looks like they used algorithms to identify these messages and prevent them from being as easily searched for.

Dr. Adam Goldstein: Right, so, this is really kind of to help curb what the World Health Organization is calling vaccine hesitancy, one of what they call a major threat to global health. We do know that there have been increasing spread of outbreaks. Most people would know the increase in measles, the spread of measles, there are 72 adults and children in Europe alone last year who died from measles. Completely, almost avoidable public health disease and yet measles reached its highest level in two decades. And so, the misinformation, what types of things do you think people could hear that might be misinformation that Pinterest, and maybe other social media platforms like Google or YouTube or Twitter, Facebook might be interested in also curbing.

Dr. Shannon Ames: Well I think one of the problems is that they overestimate the risk of getting the vaccines and maybe underestimate the benefits of getting these vaccines.

Dr. Adam Goldstein: Yeah, so, most parents will be worried about side effects, potentially the costs, maybe any objections morally or religiously. People would know but hopefully not believe the kind of debunking about measles and autism and just general knowledge. And so all these things could be subject to misinformation. I admit, I was a little hesitant to think about what does it mean to make restrictions. But it’s not like these platforms curb your own first amendment, it’s just that their platforms are their own platforms. You don’t have an unfettered right to put whatever you want on their platform.

Dr. Shannon Ames: Yeah, I think that’s an interesting thought and that they’re just trying to make sure the information on there is accurate.

Dr. Adam Goldstein: Well, we’re going to again, we invite other views and thoughts about this, but we would encourage it to be based on current facts.

Provided by librarians at the University of North Carolina Health Sciences Library.


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