Facebook’s efforts to police online ads for vaccine misinformation are unintentionally blocking messages from cities, health care providers and community and faith-based groups promoting Covid shots.
Paid-for messages from at least 110 groups aimed at raising awareness of how the vaccines work or where to get inoculated were flagged and sent to Facebook’s register of political messages, a POLITICO review of barred ads dating from last September shows.
Sponsors of the ads have the option of appealing but say the process may prove too burdensome while they deal with the halting distribution of vaccines and respond to new more contagious strains of the virus. That’s led some public health experts to question if Facebook can be a viable forum for information on the pandemic as it faces pressure to combat anti-vaccination forces that have been prevalent on its platform.
The restrictions “made it very difficult for the township in our efforts to inform our residents about important information regarding Covid-19 registration and updates,” said Mary Hastings, executive administrator of Orland Township, Illinois, which had two ads blocked this month. “This is very unfair.”
A California Medical Association ad promoting an event this month with White House vaccination coordinator Bechara Choucair also ran afoul of Facebook’s ad filters. Anthony York, an association spokesperson, said the appearance by a Biden administration official may have triggered the ban.
“It’s hard to know what will go through,” he said,