Antivaccinationists abuse reporting algorithms to silence pro-vaccine skeptics on Facebook

This is not what I wanted to write about for my first post of 2014, but unfortunately it's necessary—so necessary, in fact, that I felt the obligation to crosspost it to my not-so-super-secret other blog in order to get this information out to as wide a readership as possible.

I've always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Facebook. On the one hand, I like easily how it lets me stay in contact with family and friends across the country, people whom I would rarely see more than once or twice a year, if even that. On the other hand, I have the same privacy concerns that many other people have with respect to putting personal information, as well as pictures and videos of myself, family, and friends, onto Facebook. Now that I've become a (sort of) public figure (or, as I like to refer to myself, a micro-celebrity), I've thought that I should cull my friends list to just real friends with whom I have a connection (or at least have met in person or had private e-mail exchanges with) and set up a Facebook page for my public persona, to prevent people whom I don't know or barely know from divebombing my wall with arguments. As I tell people, I don't want obnoxious arguments on my Facebook wall; that's what my blog is for. It's also why I make no apologies when I find it occasionally necessary to tell Facebook "friends" who get too obnoxious on my wall to knock it off and then deleting their comments if they irritate me enough, even though here on this blog almost anything goes in the comments. Different media, different rules. My "meatspace" friends and family read my Facebook wall, and many of them are unfamiliar with the rough-and-tumble free-for-all that are the comments sections of some of my blog posts.

My personal issues with Facebook aside, Facebook does indeed have many shortcomings, but until something else comes along and steals the same cachet (which is already happening as teens flee Facebook to avoid their parents) and even after, Facebook will remain a major player in social media. That's why its policies matter. They can matter a lot. I was reminded of this about a week ago when Dorit Reiss (who has of late been the new favored target of the antivaccine movement, likely because she is a lawyer and has been very effective thus far in her young online career opposing the antivaccine movement) published a post entitled Abusing the Algorithm: Using Facebook Reporting to Censor Debate. Because I also pay attention to some Facebook groups designed to counter the antivaccine movement, I had already heard a little bit about the problem, but Reiss laid it out in stark detail. Basically, the merry band of antivaccinationists at the Australian Vaccination Network (soon to be renamed because its name is so obviously deceptive, given that it is the most prominent antivaccine group in Australia, that the NSW Department of Fair Trading ordered the anti-vaccine group to change its misleading name) has discovered a quirk in the algorithm Facebook uses to process harassment complaints against users and abused that quirk relentlessly to silence its opponents on Facebook.

I'll let Reiss explain:

Over the weekend of December 21-22, an unknown person or persons used a new tactic, directed mainly at members of the Australian organization “Stop the Australian Vaccination Network” (The Australian Vaccination Network – AVN – is, in spite of its name, an anti-vaccine organization – see also here; SAVN had been very effective in exposing their agenda and mobilizing against them). In an attempt to silence pro-vaccine voices on Facebook, they went back over old posts and reported for harassment any comment that mentioned one person’s name specifically. Under Facebook’s algorithm, apparently, mentioning someone’s name means that if the comment is reported it can be seen as violating community standards. Which is particularly ironic, since many commentators, when replying to questions or comments from an individual, would use that individual’s name out of courtesy.

Several of the people so reported received 12 hours bans. Some of them in succession.

The only common trait of these posts appears to be that they use the name of an AVN supporter, who then uses that use of her name as evidence of "harassment" to report the post. If you go back and look at the examples of comments that were used to trigger 12 hour Facebook bans, they are about as innocuous as one can imagine. For example:

We removed this from Facebook because it violates our Community Standards

Here's another example:

“Karen; a challenge for you: find a case where a judicial officer (judge, special master etc) has heard evidence for and against a link between vaccines and autism and then found in favour of a link. Give me a link to the judgment, not what what Mike Adams or others claim is in the judgment.”

Antivaccinationists, being antivaccinationists, also can't resist bragging about what they are doing, posting images of comments successfully removed and creating a Facebook page called "FB Time-Outs for Provaxers":

FB Time-Outs for Provaxers

One notes that this must either have been taken down or that it is a private, invitation-only group that doesn't show up on Facebook searches. This is still going on. Indeed, I received an e-mail on New Years Eve from Joanne Benhamu, who confirms that this has been going on several weeks and further reports that the individuals responsible for this campaign have been on a reporting spree. She also reports that couple of days ago every administrator for the "Stop the AVN" Facebook page, including Joanne Benhamu and Rachel Dunlop, has become the target of such bans. The effect, as described by Benhamu, has been to disable their ability to run the Stop the AVN Facebook page and prevent supporters from engaging in debate about the topic. She also gave examples of the frivolous nature of the complaints and the innocuous nature of the comments singled out for complaint. One comment that drew a 12 hour ban was: "Tess, are you disputing that your only source is a blog penned by a known liar?". Another comment that has resulted in Dr Rachael Dunlop being banned is: "Karen is a sock, or appears to be."

I can't emphasize enough how hypocritical this is.

Reasonable Hank has also pointed out the brain-melting hypocrisy of the AVN and documented several instances of the AVN crying "Censorship!" to raise money and quoting Meryl Dorey herself saying "Censorship is NEVER acceptable!" It's a viewpoint that I actually have a great deal of affinity for. Remember, I'm the same person who has lambasted laws criminalizing Holocaust denial when arch-Holocaust denier David Irving ran afoul of such laws in 2006 and was profoundly disappointed when Elie Wiesel proposed carving out an exception to free speech laws to criminalize Holocaust denial. I took a fair amount of heat for that, but I still believe that, by and large, the best defense against dangerous speech is speech refuting it.

Of course, government censorship is a different thing from the policies of a private company like Facebook. Facebook can do what it likes and set whatever policies it likes. It is Facebook's policies that are problematic. As easily abused as Facebook's policies appear to be, however, it is hypocritical in the extreme for Meryl Dorey to weep crocodile tears about "censorship" and then engage in the activities Hank documents, such as frivolous DMCA takedown complaints and intentionally marking unfavorable posts as spam. Reiss and Reasonable Hank provide compelling evidence that this is a deliberate strategy, most likely on the part of the Australian Vaccination Network and Meryl Dorey designed to abuse the reporting algorithm used by Facebook in order to give pro-vaccine skeptical activists a "time out" from Facebook. During these 12-hour bans, they are unable to post or comment; they are, for all intents and purposes, locked out of Facebook. As Reasonable Hank explains, this is no a petty Facebook squabble. Remember that each of these reports means a 12 hour ban from Facebook for the user. It is also highly unlikely to be a coincidence that comments from months ago are found and reported at a time coinciding with the end of a user's 12 hour ban. One user has reported multiple bans, one per day, so that he has not had continual access to his Facebook account for over a week. Just look at the list of comments that led to 12 hour bans based on frivolous reports of harassment and abuse. There is nothing abusive or threatening about any of them.

Again, the only thing these posts have in common is that they use the name of an AVN supporter, often only the first name. Apparently, yesterday Meryl Dorey herself finally commented, playing dumb in a transparent fashion:


After a disingenuous bit about how this is the first time she's ever heard of this and a claim that she has yet to see any evidence that AVN-affiliated Facebook users have anything to do with this and a "nudge-nudge, wink-wink" urging that "we are better than this", Dorey turns up the nudging and winking to the point where she probably has elbow bruises and corneal abrasions to conclude:

Oh, and honestly, pages and people who breach Facebook's terms and conditions should be reported - don't think that I am trying to stop you from doing that, I encourage you to! But please keep it to those types of pages and posts.

In other words, carry on what you're doing, but please, just be a little less blatant about it and for heaven's sake don't publicly gloat about it when your abuse of Facebook's reporting mechanism succeed!

Again, this is a deficiency of Facebook's automated reporting mechanism. It's a glitch that's so transparently open to abuse that it's a wonder to me that Facebook hasn't fixed it already. As one of the commenters in Reasonable Hank's post points out, it seems fairly certain that the name recognition is automated to the point that the person doing the reporting of abuse need only have an account with the same name or partial name as the name mentioned in the comment in order to report it for purposes of suppression, elaborating:

So if I happen to see some guy on a US politics site saying stuff I disagree with to some other guy named “Andy”, it seems I can get the abuser banned even though it’s not me he’s abusing. The target “Andy” would be none-the-wiser.

Gosh, if were a troll, I could just spend my days searching random FB sites for anyone who mentions “Andy”, and get the users banned for the hell of it.

The Facebook account most used to make these spurious complaints appears to belong to someone with the 'nym Karen Little, who runs an antivaccine Facebook page in which she blatantly gloats about getting Australian skeptics banned, such as Peter Bowditch, banned and posts memes like this:

And this:

Unfortunately, Facebook has not proven itself to be particularly good at dealing with issues like this; its track record leaves something to be desired. However, with its more than one billion users, Facebook is still the 800 lb. gorilla of social media and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. It is a platform that can't be ceded to the antivaccinationists without a fight. Moreover, if the Australian (Anti-) Vaccination Network succeeds in driving pro-science activists from Facebook with these tactics, other antiscience movements will be emboldened to do the same. As I've explained time and time again, attacking the person and trying to silence him is a feature, not a bug, of crank movements. As I discovered early on, they hate pseudonyms and would try to "out" me every way they could. I learned the reason, too, and that's to target me personally in order to silence me. As I've experienced all too many times as various cranks have tried to harass me by complaining to my superiors at my job or even gone as far as to try to report me to my state medical board, which a misguided Stanislaw Burzynski supporter did last year. This is no different, except that it's easier. My bosses know enough now to recognize crank complaints, and the state medical board rapidly decided that the complaint against me was bogus. Facebook has an automatic algorithm; human judgment appears to have very little to do with it.

So what can we do? First of all, this needs to be publicized. Whether it's the AVN doing this (as seems very likely based on strong circumstantial evidence) or other groups of antivaccine warriors, this needs to be publicized. I don't know whether complaining to Facebook will do any good or not, but it nonetheless has to be done at the Feedback link. It might also help to report this as a bug. The key is that we have to get a lot of reports; otherwise it's unlikely that Facebook will notice. In the meantime, the only other suggestion I can think of is never to use the name of a known antivaccine activist, in particular the names above that were used to get people temporarily banned. It's a matter of self-preservation.

Social media sites like Facebook are a very useful tool for community building and disseminating information. However, the can be abused, and that is what appears to be occurring here. There might come a time when Facebook ceases to be useful because its reporting algorithm is too easily abused. Here's hoping that the management of Facebook can be made aware of that.

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Thanks for the article. My only beef about this story is that it only serves to fuel the childish hubris of the blockers, who, not doubt, are lapping this up with glee. They could never succeed in anything serious because they can;t contain their public gloating.

In the meantime, SAVNers have not been silenced, 12-hour bans or not.

Thanks for this post. I was the poster of the first screenie that earned me a 12 hour ban (my second) My first 12 hour ban which I didn't screenie but copy/pasted, was for this

"Karen I had a whooping cough booster 3 years ago. There are no babies or children even in the circles I move in. However, I use public transport and shop in supermarkets where there are little ones. Yes we vaccinate to protect ourselves but this is a community issue and my primary motivation for getting a booster was so that I wouldn't inadvertently pass on the disease, if I got it, to someone more vulnerable than myself."

BTW Karen is over on the AVN, protesting her innocence. Right

By Meleese Pollock (not verified) on 01 Jan 2014 #permalink

Doesn't matter Sue. What they have done is they have associated the behaviour with the exAVN, an organistion that seeks legitimacy. They have dragged the exAVN into the gutter with them.

No matter what the exAVN does now, this behaviour will be brought up during the discussion.

Can I just add, as one of the admins on the Stop the AVN page, that all the admins also copped the 12hr ban, and people who were not admins, but liked or commented on that thread.

By Ilijas Milišić (not verified) on 01 Jan 2014 #permalink

This from the same people who cry censorship whenever one of us has the gall to merely tell them they are wrong.
I wanted to use stronger words than "people", but that would have resulted in me being banned :-)

I could have been willing to disregard this behavior as mostly from ill-mannered fans and teenager trolls testing their newfound power to silence mature people - you have idiots everywhere, even more so on the anonymous internets.
But if the leaders and other spokepersons of the antivax movement are actively endorsing it... The hypocrisy, it burns.

Anyway, to conclude my first post of 2014, happy new year to all science defenders and don't let the bullies win.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 01 Jan 2014 #permalink

This is sick. Sort it out, facebook.
From the screenshots I saw, a lot of reporting seemed to be being done from just one profile . There will have been a surge in that profile's reporting that corresponds with all these bans of SAVN members. Find this person, evaluate the situationa nd deal with them appropriately.

^ "to have gained"

One has to assume that people who advocate the antivax ideas actually belive in them (unless they are playing some incredibly circuitous long con, that'll let them bathe in filthy CAM lucre). So it is pretty tough for me to imagine the mental gymnastics needed to justify that behaviour.

I mean the reasoning behind the campaign must be something like this "I am right and I know it - my information and arguments are true and more compelling than my opposition. Which is why instead of easily crushing them with evidence and properly constructed arguments based on data, I will just silence them."

Of course, from the outside wiev the supposed data and arguments hold little water, but from inside of antivaxxer mind they probably seem solid.

Oh well, poor AVN must fight against censorship of Sinister Sceptics Society by any means neccesssary.

By The Smith of Lie (not verified) on 01 Jan 2014 #permalink

Another form of, 'if your arguments suck, increase the volume to shout down your critics'. If the AVN folks could defend themselves with science, this tactic would not be necessary.

If what you say is true, I don't agree with the practice Orac. I don't agree with censorship in any form, perhaps only if comments are made on prohibited grounds that ranks them as hate speech (attaching someone for their race, age, sexual orientation, etc). Yet, you guys are talking about censorship?? C'mon Orac!

My concern with this whole thing is not so much that it is anti-vaxers who are doing it (which is amusingly hypocritical), but rather that it can be done. Users should not be able to be automatically banned for a frivolous reason (or, indeed as in the case of AVN's actions, for no reason at all). Part of the problem is that just a single comment can be used to completely ban a user. A quick and easy (though by no means ideal) fix would be to just suspend the particular comment for 12 hours, but still allow the individual to use Facebook.

I second Orac's suggestion: go to Facebook and give them some feedback about this "feature". Also, let them know what you think on Twitter (@Facebook) and via other social media. But if you only do one thing, use their feedback form.

Narad, those anti-vax petition always bring me a bit of joy, because they highlight how few of them there really are. 36 signatures? With ALL the MILLIONS of parents they claim to have? Same with the one that popped up in response to the Keep Jenny of the View petition, when all was said and done it ended up with a few hundred. A nice reminder that their numbers aren't as big as they proclaim.

This is the behavior of a wanna-be emo teenager on LiveJournal circa 2004. And it highlight's their very real fear that most people, when presented with real information, see their BS as what it is: BS.

By AnObservingParty (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

Narad @7 - No wonder that petition didn't get much traction. It's an incoherent screed that would only be understandable to someone deep inside the controversy manufactoversy. It practically screams "I'm an angry nutter!".

And Smith @9 - True believers often rationalize behavior that's beyond the pale, in service of The Cause, up to and including violence.

By palindrom (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

"Debating" AVers on facebook is like arguing with children (at best). The tough part is that we know and studies have shown that what people read on social networks (aka facebook) does influence their decisions on vaccination.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

Pity the AVN, reduced to censoring a few critical comments on Facebook. Meantime, it continues to face devastating criticism not only elsewhere on the Internet, but from politicians, public health advocates and major media outlets.

Here's an example of publicity the AVN is getting as the result of a failed attempt at a name change:…

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

Yet, you guys are talking about censorship?? C’mon Orac!

Greg, this IS censorship. It is abusing processes to get people temporarily banned from Facebook for false reasons.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

What's astounding to me is that they took pretty much no action at all over a live blood quack who spent months running a campaign of vilification against people who reported his misleading advertisements, characterising them as racists on no basis whatsoever other than that he (of all the live blood quacks reported) happens to be black, and in the process engaging in some pretty obvious misogynistic ranting.

Even his theft of images went unchallenged. But he managed to get three blogs taken down with frivolous DMCA notices.

It really does appear to be more than a coincidence: Facebook responds more to those who are in the wrong!

By Guy Chapman (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

I am never going again to use a given name to answer somebody. I'll henceforth use the initial only, and see if FB allow a ban for it :P

Bwahahahaha. Apparently "Karen Little" either took down her gloating page or changed its privacy settings. The Keanu Reeve meme, in which the tag line was "What if I told you it wasn't the algorithm," now does not show up.

Any chance the page is on the Wayback Machine or similar?

That's the problem with committing the perfect crime: You can never tell anyone about it.

By Gray Falcon (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

Let's be fair, Orac...antivaxxers are people who don't have the greatest critical thinking skills, to begin with.

I would also be sure (sadly) that the initial is no longer blue. I suspect that the ban process is automated, so we need to complain to have the programming itself changed.

It is a frustrating task sharing facts with true believers, since we already know that we debate mostly to be sure that those who are studying the matter get fact-based information to consider alongside the alarmist, unproven speculation.

Perhaps if they had science on their side they would operate more like RI, where differing opinions are tolerated and openly debated.

It's the hypocrisy that gets to me. I've personally been subject to many nasty comments on Facebook yet no action has been taken against those who make such comments.

This is only a sample of the sort of loathsome trolling that Facebook refuses to stop:

Sal Amander Stacy, SICK and insensitive doesn't begin to describe the filthy disgusting shit that you are.

December 8, 2013 at 4:10pm · Edited · Like

By Stacy Herlihy (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

Yet, you guys are talking about censorship?? C’mon Orac!

Go tell it to your pals at AoA, Gerg.

Jake's Autism Investigated (an ironic title- if any) has censored at least two of Orac's minions** AFAIK.

If these sites are *la creme de la creme* of anti-vacciniana, it doesn't speak well for their tolerance of differing opinions .. reality, actually.

If the only way you can get people to accept your ideas is to get them to doubt whatever most researchers, experts, governments and media advocate, you're in trouble.

** Ren and Narad.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

Yep, Stacy has it right - comments where I'm called a b***h, c**t, etc are fine and dandy and not harassment or threatening according to FB - but if I mention another person's name in the most politest of sentences, Whammo.

What do you suggest I write when I report this bug? I've not done this before-sounds like a skill I should acquire.thanks

By nutrition prof (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

I don't see FB changing any time soon so why not simply omit the name and carry on? Beat them at their own game.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

@ Science Mom- Have read your Nov 12th post several times now, love it, but yes please, new one would be great :)

By Scared Momma (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

Science Mom- They're actually going back to very old posts and reporting them.

Apparently “Karen Little” either took down her gloating page or changed its privacy settings.

Comparing cached versions of posts that she's commented on with the current ones indicates that they're all gone. I don't think changing current privacy settings works retroactively in that fashion, suggesting that she deleted her account (or that FB did it for her).

Boring troll is till boring

By Delurked Lurker (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

The "Stop the Australian Vaccination Propaganda" FB page has also disappeared within the past 11 hours.

Science Mom- They’re actually going back to very old posts and reporting them.

Wow that's pathetic. Good thing they're a one trick pony. Slam FB with complaints is the best I can do.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

Oh and thanks Scared Momma. After the holiday visitors and the little SM spawn are back to school, I'll get on that.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

Yet, you guys are talking about censorship?? C’mon Orac!

Come on WHAT, Greg? You're still posting here, are you not?

By the way, the "you're hurting babies so we're justified in doing anything we like" mentality is starting to get eerily reminiscent of the anti-abortion movement.

@Stu: poor Greggers has his pants in a twist because Orac has him on moderation. More than willing to bet, however, that few, if any, of his posts haven't eventually been allowed through.

Well, now I know how to get a post removed and prevent one of mine from being removed. I agree and will no longer use names in response. I already have a page I use to post on "hot" topics to protect my personal identity.

Also Orac: What do you think about Jahi McMath case?

By Kidsnursern (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

So I posted on AVN forum rebutting their nonsense like the cry for a vaccinated vs unvaccinated study, and the baloney about vaccines didn't save us, hygiene did. About 1/2 dozen posts, links to studies. And one post with some well deserved sarcasm.

I've never posted there before, in fact I've never visited the site before.

Well it took less than 2 hours for every one of my posts to be removed with the claim that I was a sock puppet.

This while they are under fire for censoring posts and right in the middle of claiming they aren't behind it.

Its like claiming you don't smoke while you turn around to take a drag.

LOL. It really is a futile battle. Like Alice behind the looking glass over there.

By Captian_a (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

Good for you for trying Captain_a. If children weren't suffering, I would laugh. But the helpless suffer because of insane parents.

What is it about the human brain, that tells us, I am right, everyone else is wrong? Was it a survival tool somehow when we were evolving? Are some people just naturally more open minded? I ask, because occasionally I do have to fight the urge, I am right, no one is telling me different.

By Scared Momma (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

I've been very saddened by the Jahi McGrath case. I know when you sign informed consent forms before surgery, they very quickly warn you of rare complications. We believe that tonsillectomy is "so commonplace that nothing can go wrong." My heart breaks for the parents, and I've been wondering if Orac would take it up or not. Sadly, it would have to fall over "when is it right to discontinue life support?" which can be a very touchy subject, and seems often to be cost based (for very real financial reasons) more than anything else.

Does any of the readership here have the spare time and resources to document and publicize this more widely? I cannot do this myself, but it feels like something worthwhile.

Tangling with vituperative nutcases isn't pleasant or especially healthy, but there are times when it needs to be done. It's along the lines of answering fools, except the fools (fool in the old sense of obstinately wrong, not meaning harmlessly mistaken) now sponsor laws, run for office and develop billion $ operations.
The new fools also spread pertussis, which they say only harms the genetically inferior.

By Spectator (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

I have to walk past the Oakland Children's Hospital on an almost daily basis. I'm about ready to throttle a) the media, b) the McGrath family's lawyer and c) the media again.

McGrath's family and supporters, I just wish to apply a very large cluebat to. It seems like they're willfully refusing to see the difference between a coma and brain death.

I'm already planning to be SOMEWHERE ELSE on Tuesday afternoon when the extended TRO continuing Jahi's respirator ends.


Sorry, needed to vent.

Regarding Jahi McGrath and brain death, Dr. Alice Ackerman wrote up a good article trying to explain just what brain death is. You can read it here.

AVN and their allies act like a bunch of pre-teen bullies who've found out how to hit the nerdy kid and run away before teacher sees them.


Well, I left my own comment on that CBS article:

A health care facility is entirely within its rights to require immunizations as a condition of employment, especially when the employee has direct patient contact. They should have a policy in place for legitimate medical exemptions, though. Masking is an appropriate alternative, since a well-fitted mask is only slightly less effective than the vaccine. Stay at home policies are all well and good, but they don't account for the few days before you show symptoms of being sick but are nonetheless contagious. While I understand the nurse's concerns, however, the scientific literature shows that the inactivated flu vaccines do not increase the risk of harm to the mother or fetus compared to those who do not get the vaccine. What's more, with the added protection of the vaccine, she and her fetus are less likely to suffer complications from the virus itself, which is a far, far greater risk than the shot.

If she did, indeed, offer to wear a mask, then I think the employer needs to reevaluate its policy. But her fear of the vaccine is also unfounded.

I'm curious as to how many sites they've managed to trick the algorithm. Really and truly making themselves appear to be a larger group than they are.

By AnObservingParty (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink


Masking has been shown to have questionable efficacy. The NYS Union is suing the NYSDOH right now because of the shot-or-mask law. At my facility, we come out and say, "yeah, we know the mask probably doesn't do anything. It's coercion." I do find, however, that those who have honest medical contraindications are more than willing to wear the mask. It's those who just don't want the shot who fight.

By AnObservingParty (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink


When I wrote up a post about masking policies last year, I turned up some research that showed masking can be effective. A fit-tested N95 is the best, though still not as good as the vaccine. A non-fitted N95 is still better than a surgical mask, and a surgical mask is better than nothing at all. IIRC, the maximum efficacy (for the fit-tested N95) was around 60% or so at preventing transmission.

Here's the post I wrote. In light of what I was able to turn up, masking is an acceptable option, but I'd argue that it should be a fit-tested N95, not just a surgical mask. Hot, uncomfortable and does hell for making a patient feel calm, but better than spreading the virus.

Yes, a surgical mask is better than nothing, but it's still limited and questionable, which is the kind I was referring to, because that's what the law entails. It doesn't cover/require N95s, and I don't think it should. We can't afford to potentially provide N95s for ALL hospital staff during widespread flu. The mandate covers any employee, volunteer, student, contractor, etc who may come into contact with a patient anywhere in the hospital, including in hallways, elevators, the lobby, the cafeteria when the employee is not actively putting food in his's simply not logistical. There were shortages during 2009 when H1N1 first arrived, at least in my area), people don't wear them correctly, and seeing N-95s everywhere has a psychological affect. They're almost like a symbol of "THIS IS BAD!" and so people take extra precaution, which is not a bad thing when dealing with a TB room or something of the like. We don't want to lessen that affect, or open up a financial reason to scrap the mandate.

By AnObservingParty (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

Good points. I definitely agree that the psychological effect is huge. Hospitals and health care facilities are already uncomfortable for a lot of people. Seeing N95s everywhere would be very unwelcoming and make already tense people that much more tense. And that stress response could have a detrimental affect on the patients.

Ideally, I think, immunization/masking policies for health care workers should be: if you do not have a medical contraindication for the vaccine, get it; if you have a medical contraindication, you can wear a mask; if you are simply refusing for personal, non-medical reasons, then you can take unpaid leave or find a new job.

Yep. I can't wait for the flu shot to get to the status of MMR. Get it unless you can't, or find a new job. It's a privilege to be able to take care of our patients.

By AnObservingParty (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

Tangling with vituperative nutcases isn’t pleasant or especially healthy,

As one of our public health nurse (Iraq vet) once remarked, "There are days when I miss not carrying a weapon."

Under what heading should we report the bug? I had the list of options but none seemed ideal. If we were unified in reporting under one heading, my guess is it would go to one department or person instead of multiple reports going to various people (my assumption is that FB has different people to handle different bugs - I'm just guessing though so if someone has a better suggestion, please, let's hear it!)

I read the antivax comments on the various sites and I am amazed at the number of them that start out "I am an RN and I don't believe in vaccinations." What the HECK do they teach in nursing school about immunology??
Apologies to the very dedicated RNs in here who post immunologic sense on those sites--you know who you are and I thank you.
@Shay--As a veterinarian who used to do rabies vaccination clinics in the wilds of Alabama, there were days when I really did NEED a weapon. :)

OT question about woo promotion:

As long as a supplement dealer posts a disclaimer on his website and in ads stating that his product is not intended to treat or prevent any disease, is he then legally free to make claims in public forums/news media about his product treating./curing specific diseases?

For instance, if you sell a supplement to be taken by autistic children, can you go on Oprah and proclaim that your product cures autism without running afoul of the FDA - as long as your website runs a Quack Miranda Warning?

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

@Dangerous Bacon

Nope. If you make claims that your product cures, treats, mitigates or diagnoses a specific disease or condition, it needs to be approved by FDA, going through the usual approval process. You can, however, make vague structure/function claims for your product without getting approval. Of course, there can't be any actual active ingredients in the product, because then it's considered adulterated. Lots of "supplements" for male enhancement run afoul of that, since they actually contain undeclared Viagra.


At the hospital that I volunteer at, everyone is required to get the flu shot, from doctors and administrators to custodians and volunteers, unless medically contraindicated. Otherwise, you are not allowed to work in the hospital.

At the area that I volunteer at, al of the nurses seem intelligent and have taken the flu shot, as well as telling all visitors of the patients to get a flu shot, to reduce the risk of passing the flu onto others.

That's why the comments about RNs not believing in the flu shot is flabbergasting. I always think to myself, "It's not about you, it's about the patients you serve" Their behavior just smacks of selfishness.

Thanks Todd - do you know of any situations where someone has been warned/fined/prosecuted for making specific supplement treatment/cure claims in the media/on the Internet, where their defense was that the product label/website contains a Quack Miranda Warning? Or do you have knowledge of any applicable case law/rulings?

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

I am not Todd, oh Dangerous One but...
Quackwatch ( recent additions section) has:
FDA Orders Dr Joseph Mercola to Stop Illegal Claims
( by Dr Barrett/ 2011 +)- it's quite detailed

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

I'm from the tech space and in no way defending Facebook. The problem is here is in asking a computer to determine what harassment is - it's a rather difficulty proposition. I won't write a treatise on how that could be done, it would be long and besides, FB is not going to receive it. So the nasty anti-vaxxers essentially, are taking advantage of a technology loophole. I find their actions reprehensible and disgusting. They are very much the burning stupid I label them as. I'm a member of a number of skeptics societies, we're fighting them up here too. I agree with some comments that we should formally submit a complaint to FB. If it comes from a number of sources, it may well make the difference. Let's keep up the good fight.

By Skeptical_Canadian (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

You know, if this keeps up, Facebook is going to lose its reputation as a source of serious scientific discourse.

Sorry about that. On a slightly more serious note, the anti-vaccine movement has only succeeded in shooting itself in the foot. The pro-vaccine information is still out there, and they now have another tactic available: "If you really have science on your side, why are you gaming Facebook to shut down your opponents?"

By Gray Falcon (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

“If you really have science on your side, why are you gaming Facebook to shut down your opponents?”

I believe the anti-vaxxer response to that is "Because you're WRONG!" *footstomp*

Or whatever the online equivalent is of that...

@Dangerous Bacon

I don't know any cases off the top of my head, but FDA has sent warning letters for making claims that a product diagnoses, treats, mitigates or cures a specific disease or condition. I do recall a number of years ago those Kinoki Detox Foot Pads garnered a warning. I had reported them after seeing an infomercial late one night. The wise and wonderful Denice Walter is good to point you to Quackwatch. Lots of cases noted there.

Some advice I'll give you if you do come across a bogus claim on TV/radio/interwebz that I got from FDA's Office of Enforcement: note the venue (station/web site), date and time of the claim and exactly what was claimed. Keep in mind, though, that something like "boost the immune system" is not actionable, while "prevents the flu" would be (unless, of course, it's homeopathic, which is a whole separate clusterf*** altogether).

"At the area that I volunteer at, al of the nurses seem intelligent and have taken the flu shot, as well as telling all visitors of the patients to get a flu shot, to reduce the risk of passing the flu onto others."

Getting the flu shot is

I’m curious as to how many sites they’ve managed to trick the algorithm. Really and truly making themselves appear to be a larger group than they are.

I've been running a haphazardly designed experiment. It took three reports of harassment before FB even notified me that the test comment had been reported, and that one included the "pornography" check box. What I'd like to determine is whether "harassing me or a friend" actually gets cross-indexed against the reporter's friends.

You might want to consider that Facebook might have on its censor staff a person who is anti-vaccine. The only way to deal with that is to contact the CEO of Facebook.

By Mason Kelsey (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

A friend experimented with a comment on my timeline. Reports by my friends were rejected.

@ Todd W.:

" wise and wonderful"? I though that I was "fun and fabulous"?

@ lilady:

Oh lord almighty! Here's an article that anti-vaxxers will probably be utilising as a source:
"The deadly truth: Flu vaccine and Pregnancy" (sic)
see / Gary Null articles.
check his sources ( Doshi, Jefferson, Goldman etc)

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

Since I don't do FB, I suppose I could start right out with a handle including a common word. Then I'd be all set to shut down just about anyone who posts.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

lilady - actually, after reading about many things that start out as flu-like symptoms, I have more sympathy for the "don't get a flu shot" viewpoint. If someone has flu-like symptoms the most innocuous thing (s)he can have is ... influenza! Despite the fact that influenza can cause death, it's nowhere near as bad as, say, polio or ebola.

If someone is going to have flu-like symptoms, I want it to be the flu. The vaccine makes it all the more likely that someone with those symptoms has something really, really deadly.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

I don't have any sympathy for health care workers who refuse to get the seasonal influenza vaccine, other vaccines...or who refuse TB Mantoux testing...which are conditions of employment.

Perhaps the pregnant nurse ought to look into a career change, where her refusal to receive vaccines is not an issue.

More anti-vax attempts to silence sceptics:

( @ AoA- excerpted from ChildHealthSafety)
It seems that Dr Ben Goldacre encourages sceptics to report non-SBM treatments to relevant authorities and actively oppose quackery, thus when one of his min...fellow physicians on the Bad Science Forum reported a Welsh doctor to the GMC and her patient later committed suicide...

Oh well, the sceptics are to blame again. Will the world ever be safe from their manipulations?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

Perhaps the pregnant nurse ought to look into a career change, where her refusal to receive vaccines is not an issue.

Tyrant! It was totalitarians like you who forced Typhoid Mary to abandon her food-preparation career!

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

@Denice Walter

You are both "wise and wonderful" and "fun and fabulous".

@ Denice Walter: Nice that John D. Stone planted that slime from CHS...and proceeded to post multiple comments which extol the virtues of his hero Wakefield.

Did you happen to notice that Jake is no longer listed as a "Contributor" on AoA?

@ Denice,

Mind if I pick up your brainpower for a few minutes?

I have a situation where I've been offered 2 jobs. The first one is with Specialisterne and SAP which you can have a description here:

The second job, I would be an entrepreneur and I'd offer consulting and repair services to 10 charity.

The similarity between both jobs are that they have the potential to offer a good salary but then, the entrepreneurial one might offer more liberty in setting up prices (in which case, I'd pay a visit to a financial planner before setting up my prices) and stable employment durability (the needs are staggering in both environments).

The differences between both job is exactly in the salaries. For the Sap job, they have their salary range but in the case of the entrepreneurial job, I'm on the lookout for a financial planner and will likely see one soon to figure out the cost of a comfortable living situation for myself, but maybe, 3 peoples (a potential significant other and her 22 month old baby, this is in the work...)

Also of concern is that, with the entrepreneurial job, I will find myself working 9 to 4 in the organisms but during the evening, I will definitely have to work on implementation plans for best practices in the organisms (like backup handling) in order to be efficient during the day.

As far as preferences goes, I've been entrepreneur for all my life and I have a really significant experience as entrepreneur thought I wasn't always well paid because I priced myself low. Not anymore; I want to ensure a comfortable living situation and have the means to access it in both jobs. The difference between both job boil down to which one offer the most rewarding experience as it is and I tend to think that the entrepreneurial one may be more stimulating because the personnel at Specialisterne told me I was overqualified for the job (but then, I may be overqualified for both job as it is).

The question I'd like to ask you is which details I should be on the lookout in both jobs in order to chose one or the other?


@ Todd W.:

@ lilady:

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

@ Alain:

It sounds to me like you are already leaning towards the second.

But a few things to keep in mind:
- do the jobs vary in the amount of supervision/ direction you'll receieve? Do you prefer more or less direction?
- do either give you options about how much time you will work or are the number of hours set?
- which job is more likely to include boring or menial tasks?
- does either afford any social opportunities?
- does either require additional training?
- does either involve work-related travel?
- will you always work alone (in each job)?
-in which do you believe that your services are more valued?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

Alain: I just looked at your province's weather- please don't freeze (-30 C/ -20 F) . I was once in Old Montreal in March.

I feel that 30 F is slightly excessive myself.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

- do the jobs vary in the amount of supervision/ direction you’ll receive? Do you prefer more or less direction?

I don't know for the first question. As for the second, I'm polyvalent and never received much supervising in any of my jobs.

- do either give you options about how much time you will work or are the number of hours set?

The SAP job, I don't know but most IT jobs are 40 hours average, 2 hours standard deviation except in rush period (end of project). For the entrepreneurial job, I'd ask for the keys of each charities' workplace for when I have work to do in the evening.

- which job is more likely to include boring or menial tasks?


- does either afford any social opportunities?

Don't know for SAP, plenty for entrepreneurial.

- does either require additional training?

maybe for SAP and it would be at their pace. In the case of the entrepreneurial job, I set the pace of my training based on the improvement I can bring to the organisation based on their known and unknown needs.

- does either involve work-related travel?

SAP, maybe. Entrepreneurial, no.

- will you always work alone (in each job)?

In SAP, there may be some teamwork but the job is tailored for autistics. Entrepreneurial, I might have an employee if needs are sufficiently big or I grow popular enough.

-in which do you believe that your services are more valued?

Entrepreneurial; I've received excellent letters of recommendations.


I just looked at your province’s weather- please don’t freeze (-30 C/ -20 F) . I was once in Old Montreal in March.

Don't worry, I went out today accompanied with my brother and his nice & warm honda civic 2012.



Re the fired nurse, enjoy.

^ (While I'm at it, if you're arguing with these people, I'd note that Flulaval [quadrivalen] is Pregnancy Category B.)

Pretty much as soon as Clifford Miller posts anything on ChildHealthSafety, John C Stone will repost it anywhere he can. The two of them tag-team on various online forums, most notably the Guardian's "Comment Is Free". I suspect Stone of writing quite a bit of the drivel that appears on CHS.

Miller has been part of Wakefield's legal team in the past. I suspect he thought he could make money from MMR litigation and now has to be seen to continue to back the MMR/Autism horse, even though it fell at the first fence and was humanely dragged away to the glue factory years ago.

The pair of them are almost certainly the vilest of the UK anti-vaxers (since the death of you-know-who).

By Rebecca Fisher (not verified) on 03 Jan 2014 #permalink

What would be the ethics of this Clifford Miller running a website pretending to be a child health safety organization? If he is Wakefield's attorney, isn't that some form of malfeasance? I looked at the site and found nothing about who was behind it.

"Some advice I’ll give you if you do come across a bogus claim on TV/radio/interwebz that I got from FDA’s Office of Enforcement: note the venue (station/web site), date and time of the claim and exactly what was claimed. Keep in mind, though, that something like “boost the immune system” is not actionable, while “prevents the flu” would be (unless, of course, it’s homeopathic, which is a whole separate clusterf*** altogether)."

The claim I was referring to is a specific one about treating a serious medical condition and has been made repeatedly on an online forum by a a well-known supplement purveyor, who boasts that he's free to do so because his company's website makes no such claims (and has a Quack Miranda Warning). Seeing that the FDA is notoriously slow to go after supplement dealers who make specific treatment claims in their product literature, I doubt they'd act against a company official making such claims in a public forum unless there's a precedent for successfully doing so.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 04 Jan 2014 #permalink

Back to vaccines - anyone seen the latest "vaccine challenge" issued to Piers Morgan by that tag team of laughable idiots, Alex Jones and Mike Adams?…

By my count, spreading out those shots over the mandated two-week period would require poor Piers to be stuck with a needle over 71 times a day for fourteen straight days.

Remember - only three more days until UnNatural News forever changes Science as we know it!!!

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 04 Jan 2014 #permalink

If he is Wakefield’s attorney, isn’t that some form of malfeasance?

I can't really imagine how. Antivaccine kook lawyers gotta be antivaccine kooks when they're not being told to keep their mouths shut in Texas.

I looked at the site and found nothing about who was behind it.

He's stated as much. If it has bad graphs, it's Miller. I don't look at it enough to have formed an opinion of whether Stone is a significant contributor.

For instance, if you sell a supplement to be taken by autistic children, can you go on Oprah and proclaim that your product cures autism without running afoul of the FDA – as long as your website runs a Quack Miranda Warning?

No. FDA (as well as FTC) considers all promotional material (see also here [PDF]) to fall under the category of "labeling." Strictly speaking, FDA is in charge of whether something is being marketed as a drug, which brings it under their purview, and FTC is in charge of the rest of the illegal claims.

It is easier to submit complaints to FTC; if you want to go directly to FDA, you have to call the Consumer Complaint Coordinator for your district office.

a well-known supplement purveyor, who boasts that he’s free to do so because his company’s website makes no such claims (and has a Quack Miranda Warning).


By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 04 Jan 2014 #permalink

Back to vaccines – anyone seen the latest “vaccine challenge” issued to Piers Morgan by that tag team of laughable idiots, Alex Jones and Mike Adams?

I'm still waiting for any of them to address my vaccine challenge -- it's been out there, unanswered, for more than a fifteen years:

From: "D. C. Sessions"

Subject: Re: Immunisations

Date: 1997/07/20

Message-ID: #1/1

X-Deja-AN: 257910353


Organization: If your name's 'Sessions', we ain't kin


X-Posted-By: @ (sessions)

Newsgroups: wrote:
> In article ,
> (Vernon Quaintance) wrote:

> > What is ironic is that so many parents are forgetting that it was
> > immunisation which so reduced the incidence of these serious diseases.
> >
> Oh was it really? Many diseases were on the decline before immunizations.

Do, please, back up this statement. Let's take the USA or UK
(since they keep fairly thorough health records) or for that
matter Austria (which has had mandatory reporting for centuries,
one of the reasons for the fame of Austrian physicians) for an
example. Take your pick of any of the following:


IOW, the common mass-vaccination diseases.
Provide us with per-capita incidence rates (NOT mortality
rates, which are a lousy indicator of incidence) for, say,
the ten years before and after the institution of mass
vaccination and the corresponding vaccination rates.

Yes, it's terribly unfair of us to lay the burden of
doing real quantitative research on you. Normally we look
up the stats, such as the 1000:1 drop in US measles brought
by vaccination, and you and your allies snipe. (Yeah, right;
the USA in 1961 was such a public-health nightmare. Most of
the population starving, no clean water, all that -- and all
solved ten years later.)

Just for once back up your OWN claims. We're making it easy,
after all: you have your choice of seven diseases and several
countries; you can't complain that we're being selective.
All we're asking is that you provide the WHOLE story and not
just carefully-picked years. It should be easy.

> It is very unfortunate that vaccines were introduced at such a
> convenient time. Now people have it stuck in their heads that we would
> all be dead if it weren't for vaccines. Well what about diseases like
> scarlet fever for which we had no vaccine? Where did it go?

More on that in another post.

D. C. & M. V. Sessions!original/…

Note that this was more than 15 years ago; Orac saw it posted quite a few times when he was still posting on newsgroups. I've since reposted it too many times to conveniently count, added quite a few diseases to the list, and expanded the choice of countries to any that actually consistently kept records.

No takers.

So I'm not exactly impressed by "challenges" offered by the anti-vaccination crowd. Mine is tilted as far as possible in their favor, yet for some incomprehensible reason they not only never take me up on it, they seem incapable of even registering its existence. I don't understand.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 04 Jan 2014 #permalink

@ Dangerous Bacon:

re vaccine challenges
I just heard ( tape of Friday) Null challenge Paul Offit to receive "100,000 vaccines" at once or suchlike (
Supposedly there will soon be a major expose of the "quackbusters" (sic).
That internet radio site includes recent articles by the idiot-in-charge, some of them written with the assistance of his "scholars in residence".
Perhaps there are additional positions available for some people *we* know. Heh.
Right, you can interpret that a few different ways.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 05 Jan 2014 #permalink

@Denise - I took a look at the challenge, which was 1000 vaccines, including the Anthrax Vaccine (something that isn't routinely given to anyone outside of the military & certainly not to children). In fact, the majority of the "vaccines" that are in play aren't even ones that appear on the US Pediatric schedule....again, solely designed to play to the conspiracy crowd.

I, for one, would be happy to reach a level where these morons think I am part of the "conspiracy"

"That internet radio site includes recent articles by the idiot-in-charge, some of them written with the assistance of his “scholars in residence”."

I picture these scholars wearing spotted outfits with large floppy shoes, piling out of a tiny car to do battle with the Skeptics..

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 05 Jan 2014 #permalink

@ Lawrence:

Well, Null is usually off by an order of magnitude or two. Nothing new there.

And we ARE part of the Grand Conspiracy because our fearless ( and peerless) leader is frequently mentioned** by
by Mssrs Null and Gale.
AND he did win that "debate" with you on his show, Brian.

Listening to this tripe, I often wonder what is most disturbing to me:
the utter cluelessness about SBM which leads innocent listeners astray towards possible self-endangerment
the cruel and unjust slaughter of the English language.

** both by 'nym and name.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 05 Jan 2014 #permalink

edit phail:
MORE disturbing

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 05 Jan 2014 #permalink

I believe Peter Bowditch did accept the challenge, and the challenger backed down.


As I continue to nurse my wife who is down for her 8th day with (clinically confirmed) influenza, trying to keep her hydrated... "innocuous" is not a word you want to use in my presence right now. Perhaps when she's able to walk on her own again.

Oh and as we breathlessly await Mikey's unveiling of Absolute Scientific Truth (tm) Tuesday, we have to settle for his pronouncement today that AGW is a charade and a farce** because IT"S COLD OUT!

I swear I didn't make that up.

** not that he uses words like that.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 05 Jan 2014 #permalink

Oh Denice, you should make your way over to Deltoid to see the true AGW loons.


Hope your wife comes through okay. Flu is a hell of a bug.


I used to refer to the various upper respiratory ailments that occasionally made it into my system in winter as "the flu." As in, "oh, I couldn't go because I had the flu."

Then I actually GOT the real thing, and brother did I learn my lesson. Best to your wife, I feel her pain.

Stu, also sending my regards. I had a major bout of flu once. In bed for two days, during which time the only thing I ate (and promptly vomited up) was a banana; sick for three whole weeks; lost 9kg. And yet, right now I'm glad it wasn't as bad as your wife has.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 05 Jan 2014 #permalink

Thank you guys -- the worst seems to have passed.

One of my biggest pet-peeves when I was a forum moderator was the use of username distortions in order to insult a person. It still bothers me. And yet, suddenly I see it as possibly the only way a person can avoid being targeted in this fashion. It's obvious no human moderator is involved in these 12 hour bans; it's clearly exploitation of the algorithm. So the lesson I guess is to mispell their names. What self-righteous bastards they are.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 06 Jan 2014 #permalink

I suppose if the abuse of the algorithm wasless selective--if suddenly almost everyone on facebook began getting their accounts frozen for twelve hours for posting innocuous commentswhich included a name shared by the person reporting abuse--Facebook admin would be quick to fix the software.

But I don't think I'm quite at the point of suggesting that level of coordinated civil disobedience be attempted.

A new banning just took place. There's a Facebook page called "The Antivaccine Wall of Shame" (AVWOS) It has been taken down. Allison Hagood (one of the co-authors of 'Your Baby's Best Shot") has banned from Facebook for 7 days.

Here the message that Allison received from Facebook, relative to AVWOS

"The group "Anti Vax Wall of Shame" has been removed because it violated our Terms of Use. Among other things, groups that are hateful, threatening, or obscene are not allowed. We also take down groups that attack an individual or group, or advertise a product or service. Continued misuse of Facebook's features could result in your account being disabled.

Here is Allison's reply to Facebook:

"There is nothing hateful, threatening, or obscene about the group "Anti Vax Wall of Shame." The fact that you have removed this indicates that you have been receiving fraudulent reports from the anti-vaccine movement, who are on record as coordinating and planning massive campaigns of such fraudulent reports in an attempt to censor those of us who recognize established science in this area. Several stories have been written about these campaigns:

(she then gives the URLs for this post and others, which I need not give here to avoid moderation).

It is legitimate for Facebook to prevent harassment, and without context, the Anti-Vaccine Wall of Shame does look as if it might border on harassment.

Dorit Reiss (who wrote the Times of Israel piece, "Abusing the Algorithm: Usinging Facebook Reporting to Censor Debate) suggests the following be publicly explained to Facebook as context:

It is legitimate for Facebook to prevent harassment, and without context, the Anti-Vaccine Wall of Shame does look as if it might border on harassment. suggest explaining the context as follows.

To understand the need for the Anti-vax wall of shame, and why it is not harassment, you need to understand two features of the fight against anti-vaccine misinformation. The first is that anti-vaccine sites censor debate. So if they encourage people not to vaccinate their children against polio or tetanus - leaving those children at risk - based on misinformation, you cannot correct that misinformation on the page: they will ban and block you. The second feature is that anti-vaccine activists, lacking facts on their side, regularly engage in personal attacks.

(There is documentation of personal attacks by antivaccine advocates on Facebook, in the form of screenshots and a closed Facebook page that collects said attacks.)

[Th]ose of us engaged in this debate regularly face personal abuse. (On Facebook and on websites outside of Facebook.

The Anti-Vax Wall of Shame (AVWoS) does two things in this context: it allows us to call out the behavior, both the misinformation and the abuse - to publicly criticize and point out the problems, alerting people to it. And it allows those engaged in this fight, facing constant abuse, to vent their frustrations and cry out. This enables them to keep fighting.

To prevent the critique from becoming harassment, AVWoS page rules require removal of names and pictures, except when discussing a public figure. This makes the critique not personal - and not harassment.

Do individual commentators sometimes step over the line and into harassment? Possible. But that does not make the page a hate group or a focus of harassment. Its role does make it a target of anti-vaccine activists, unhappy with being criticized. But that is not a reason to remove it, and their unhappiness is not something Facebook should be a part of."

Anybody have any other suggestions?

I am planning to bail out of Facebook entirely. I have always found it to be an unrewarding way to have any serious exchange, because the interface is designed to foster the trivial and discourage the thoughtful. The clunky GUI, relentless and intrusive ads, and Facebook's business model of vacuuming and repackaging my personal information don't help. One might think that Facebook is at least blameless in the present fiasco because AVWoS members were not maltreated consciously and maliciously. But no -- the fact that Facebook automates its harassment policy enforcement is emblematic of everything that is harmful and wrong about this particular social network. I have come to detest Facebook. Next week I think I'll announce that I'm leaving, save anything worth saving and give it a few days for comments (as if anyone will care), then close my account.

the fact that Facebook automates its harassment policy enforcement is emblematic of everything that is harmful and wrong about this particular social network

With 1.2 billion users, some measure of automation is to be expected. The question becomes whether AVWoS should have chosen a different publishing platform.

@Liz Ditz

Would getting some members of the media interested in Facebook's crappy algorithms and policies be worth it?

I'll post about this later, but Facebook is working on revising its algorithm, and as Skeptical Raptor explained, undid the ban of the Anti-Vax Wall of Shame, explaining the initial ban was a "reviewer error" and apologizing.

With 1.2 billion users, some measure of automation is to be expected.

My point exactly. With only 5,800 human beings to oversee 1,200,000,000 other human beings, it is not reasonable to expect Facebook to create and nurture a meeting place for rich intellectual exchange. Instead, we get exactly what we should expect -- a rigid, constricted parody of the public forum, governed only by whatever algorithms are simple and fast enough to run on the server farm, optimized to pipe our suitably rendered profiles to the advertiser. Sure -- I've used Facebook in the same ways and for the same reasons most of us do. I've also eaten my share of Big Macs. But I'm not particularly proud of either, and this episode has made me think hard about my information diet.

@Dorit: Looking forward to your post. I did read, however, that although they undid the band of the group, they left the ban on the admins? Or was that recinded also?

Minions! Get set for this great event!

Shillify 2014
Three Days of Shilling!
23 - 25 June 2014, Bilderberg Hotel
Come join your fellow pharma shills and we share our experiences lying to the anti-vaccers about the true horrors of vaccines and medicine.

Dawn - so far the bans stand, which is a little unclear, if the initial removal was in error.

A little off-topic but: are there any legitimate autism groups that are not anti-vaccine? I've been burnt so many times that I'm now gun-shy. Would love to know if there are autism groups out there which are pro-science and not just full of zealot anti-vacc fools. Thanks!

Also, try the Autism Blogs Directory. There are a great many bloggers there who are pro vax.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 06 Feb 2014 #permalink