Facebook announces crackdown on misleading health content

Facebook said it was targeting posts pushing miracle cures and weight loss pills - REUTERS

Facebook is cracking down on posts pushing miracle cures, misleading health claims and weight-loss pills.

The social media giant announced yesterday that it is altering its algorithm to suppress such "sensational" content in users news feeds.

The move comes as Facebook faces mounting pressure in the UK and abroad to stop the spread of damaging health conspiracies on its site.

In a blog post, Facebook product manager Travis Yeh, said: “In order to help people get accurate health information and the support they need, it’s imperative that we minimise health content that is sensational or misleading. 

“We know that people don’t like posts that are sensational or spammy, and misleading health content is particularly bad for our community.”

Mr Yeh said the company would be targeting posts that “exaggerate or mislead” health claims or promote “miracle cures”.

Facebook also said that posts for pills claiming to help people lose weight would be included in the crackdown.

The announcement comes after the social media company has been singled out for failing to stop the spread of damaging health messages, such as the Anti-vaxx conspiracy that urges parents not to vaccinate their children.

Earlier this year the head of the NHS Simon Stevens said anti vaccination “fake news” on social media had fuelled a tripling in measles cases in the UK.

Official figures show 913 cases of measles in England between January and October last year - compared with 259 in the whole of the previous year.

Following the figures, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock called on social media companies to do “far more” to stop the spread of misleading health material and warned the Government could legislate if they failed.

In March he said: “This is exactly the sort of thing we should be spending our time on and talking about and, if necessary, legislating for.

“As a country we can make decisions on these sorts of things. I want to see social media companies doing far, far more to take down this material which is so damaging.”