Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Anti-vaccination content that has long appeared in search results and on social media is getting renewed attention after the U.S. government attributed recent measles outbreaks in part to reduced vaccination levels in some areas.

Why it matters: The renewed spotlight on the issue has prompted members of Congress to demand answers from platforms about how they intend to handle conspiracy theories that could impact public safety.

Driving the news: A slew of media reports about anti-vaccination videos thriving on social media services has sent companies scrambling to address them. Most recently, BuzzFeed published a report explaining how the problem is prevalent on YouTube. Health experts are calling on Facebook to manage anti-vaccination groups.

The problem has gotten even more attention as members of Congress begin to publicly address the issue, which has troubled platforms for years.

  • House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff last week sent a letter to Google and Facebook requesting additional information on the steps they're currently taking to provide medically accurate information on vaccinations to users.

The big picture: Tech companies prefer not to serve as content arbiters and have long struggled to balance free-speech ideals with efforts to limit undesirable online interactions like hate speech, bullying and misinformation. But the issue is harder to duck when the spread of false information can lead to real-world harm.

  • For this reason, many companies are taking stronger action against false vaccine-related information than they have in other areas of dubious content.

Each company is addressing the problem differently. Some are removing search results for vaccinations altogether. Others are treating medically inaccurate content like a policy violation.

  • YouTube: The company announced last month it will begin reducing recommendations of borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways, including videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness. "This includes certain types of anti-vaccination videos," the company says.
  • Google: When it comes to Search, Google says that for queries that pertain to sensitive topics susceptible to misinformation, like health information, it has systems in place to prioritize results from authoritative sources. To help with this process, Google displays knowledge panels at the top of search results for illnesses and conditions with information from authoritative sources and have been evaluated by medical professionals.
  • Facebook: Facebook says it has "taken steps to reduce the distribution of health-related misinformation on Facebook," but says it knows it has more to do. A spokesperson says it's currently working on additional changes that Facebook will be announcing soon. Facebook is considering changes like reducing or removing this type of content from recommendations and demoting it in search results.
  • Twitter: There's no specific policy in place at Twitter to cover anti-vaccination content, but the company argues that the dynamics of its platform mean that readers are more likely to encounter balanced information.
  • Pinterest: The company is currently blocking results for searches like "vaccine" or "vaccination" altogether, saying it doesn't want to lead users down a rabbit hole of potentially harmful advice. However, Axios searches for "vaxxer" or even "autism vaccine" still returned a slew of returns, suggesting it's still fairly easy for a user to be exposed to this content.

The bottom line: In taking action against anti-vaccination content, online platforms are accepting arguments made by health care professionals and policymakers that they should treat it more as an incitement to public harm, like shouting "fire" in a crowded theater, than as reasonable debate.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hold steady at 65,000 per day — CDC declares racism "a serious public health threat" — WHO official: Brazil is dealing with "raging inferno" of a COVID outbreak
  2. Vaccines: America may be close to hitting a vaccine wall — Pfizer asks FDA to expand COVID vaccine authorization to adolescents — CDC says Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply will drop 80% next week.
  3. Economy: Treasury says over 156 million stimulus payments sent out since March — More government spending expected as IMF projects 6% global GDP growth.
  4. Politics: Supreme Court ends California's coronavirus restrictions on home religious meetings
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Second senior Matt Gaetz aide resigns amid federal investigation

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) walking out of the Capitol in January 2021. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Devin Murphy, Rep. Matt Gaetz's legislative director, has stepped down amid a federal investigation into sex trafficking allegations against the Florida Republican congressman, the New York Times first reported and Axios has confirmed.

The latest: "It's been real," Murphy wrote in an email, obtained by Axios, to Republican legislative directors on Saturday morning, with the subject line: "Well...bye."

Rep. Dan Crenshaw says he'll be blind for a month after eye surgery

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) in Washington, D.C., in December 2020. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said in a statement Saturday he will be blind for roughly a month after getting surgery to reattach the retina in left eye.

Why it matters: Crenshaw, who lost his right eye and sustained severe damage to his left eye during his third deployment to Afghanistan in 2012, said he will be "pretty much off the grid for the next few weeks."