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Facebook announced plans on Thursday to crack down on misinformation around vaccinations, after it came under fire from campaigners and lawmakers.

In a blog post, Monika Bickert, vice-president of global policy management said that the social network would reduce the ranking of groups and pages spreading false information about vaccinations in its search results and news feed.

The company also said it would remove advertising including misinformation about vaccinations and remove the ability for advertisers to target users who have shown an interest in areas such as “vaccine controversies”.

The move comes amid growing concern over the rise of anti-vaccine propaganda online. Last month, Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House intelligence committee, wrote a letter to Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, as well as Google head Sundar Pichai, criticising the companies for “surfacing and recommending information that discourages parents from vaccinating their children, contributing to declining vaccination rates which could reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases”.

On Thursday, Facebook added that it was exploring ways to ensure users have accurate information from expert organisations on the topic, and would give an update on this “soon”.

“Leading global health organizations, such as the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have publicly identified verifiable vaccine hoaxes,” Ms Bickert said. “If these vaccine hoaxes appear on Facebook, we will take action against them.”

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