Despite their best efforts to avoid intervention into what people discuss on their platforms, social networks are increasingly being forced to act to halt the momentum of concerning movements that have gained support through their tools.
This week, Twitter has followed Facebook in taking action against anti-vax groups, by adding a new warning on related searches which redirects users to the US Health Department for official information.
Given the rise of the anti-vaccination movement, it makes sense for the platforms themselves to step in - though as noted, thus far, all the major platforms have sought to maintain a hands-off approach to such discussion, choosing to let users decide on issues which don't directly violate their official usage terms.
The anti-vax movement has become a larger issue in recent times. According to the World Health Organization, Europe saw a record number of measles cases in 2018, due, at least in part, to a growing number of parents who are refusing vaccinations for their children, while in America - where measles was officially declared eliminated in 2000 - reports of outbreaks are once again becoming common. And while it's not anyone else's place to make a value judgement on what others might believe, the fact of the matter is that there's no scientific evidence to support anti-vax claims, while the risks of non-vaccination remain significant, both for the individuals and the broader community.
As noted, back in March, Facebook announced a range of measures to reduce the spread of anti-vax content on its platforms, including limiting the reach of groups and Pages which share anti-vax content, rejecting ads which include vaccine misinformation, and adding new education information about vaccines in related searches.
Given the stakes, the platforms have clearly determined that they need to take more action - which, in itself, should lead to less distribution of such material, while it may also open the door to the networks taking a similar approach to other concerning movements.