A photo of a young Canadian girl that was being used inappropriately to promote anti-vaccination messaging has been removed from Facebook, the social media company reported Wednesday.
Nevaeh Denine, the girl in the photo, died last summer from neuroblastoma at 9 years old. Her mother, Holly Denine, saw her photo on a Facebook page that claimed her death was caused by vaccines.
“I only ever want Nevaeh associated with kindness and caring, not this cruel garbage. And that’s what it is, garbage,” Denine told the Canadian Press.
Facebook apologized for the pain the page may have inflicted, and a spokesperson said the company took down the page for going against the platform’s criteria for misrepresentation.
It’s no surprise that social media can be used to spread misinformation. “Fake news” flies around the internet every day, and the impacts of the anti-vax movement is being seen in real life, as measles outbreaks continue to spread globally.
It can be difficult to distinguish between facts and misinformation on platforms like Facebook, something that was made even harder as individuals and groups used to be able to pay for anti-vaccine ads on Facebook.
Data collected by the Daily Beast earlier this year revealed that 147 anti-vax ads had been purchased through seven Facebook pages. They were viewed between 1.6 million and 5.2 million times.
Social media companies like Facebook are attempting to tackle this issue by implementing new policies.
Facebook announced in March that it was going to crack down by prohibiting the promotion of misinformation about vaccines through ads or recommendations. It also stated that it would limit the reach of groups and pages that spread anti-vax propaganda. YouTube also unveiled a new fact check alert, and Pinterest has weighed in, promising to limit misinformation, too.
On the bright side, social media can still be used to spread good information.
In fact, Nevaeh herself was an example of that. Not only was she known in Newfoundland and Labrador for starting Nevaeh's Lemonade Stand to raise funds for children with cancer — but she also used social media to help raise money, according to her mom.