Facebook “fact-checker” misinforms users about vaccine safety
05/30/2020 // News Editors // Views

Facebook has unveiled a new “Fact-Checker” feature­ that’s now being used to supposedly combat misinformation about vaccines, but which is actually being used to propagandize. A “Fact-Checker” showing up on a popular video by Del Bigtree, host of the show The HighWire, claims that the video is presenting false information. However, Facebook itself in this case is guilty of misinforming its users about vaccine safety.

(Article by Jeremy R. Hammond republished from JeremyRHammond.com)

Those in the mainstream discourse calling for efforts to combat misinformation about vaccines actually have no problem at all with misinformation. Transparently, what they instead have a problem with is any information that might lead parents to conclude that strictly complying with the routine childhood vaccine schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) might not be in the best interests of their child. They have no problem with lies about vaccine safety and effectiveness as long as it’s intended to persuade parents to vaccinate their children.

This is evident in the case of the aforementioned Facebook “Fact-Checker”. In the HighWire video, published on May 4, 2017, Bigtree states that ingredients used in vaccines include aluminum and mercury, which are both known neurotoxins, and that vaccines can cause encephalopathy, which is a term encompassing any type of brain damage, disorder, or disease. This includes encephalitis, which refers to inflammation of the brain. On the screen, he shows the product package insert for Merck’s measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which lists encephalitis and encephalopathy among the possible adverse consequences of getting an MMR shot.


Facebook’s “Fact-Checker” that now appears with the video states that this is “False”, adding that “Current data shows that vaccines are safe and do not cause toxicity or encephalopathy”. This links to an article on the website of the organization Health Feedback titled “Contrary to popular video claim, vaccine ingredients are safe, not linked to encephalopathy”.

A screenshot of Facebook’s “Fact-Checker” on a HighWire video

The Health Feedback article presents a fabricated quote, attributing to Bigtree the words “Toxic vaccine ingredients in the MMR vaccine cause encephalopathy”. While Bigtree does suggest this, those words do not appear in the video and so should be presented as a paraphrase, not as a direct quote. The whole context of Bigtree’s video is omitted, which is that it was a response to a video by Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) in which Nye misleadingly implies that the viral or bacterial antigens are the only components of vaccines. Bigtree was educating his viewers that, to the contrary, vaccines also contain numerous other ingredients, including, depending on the vaccine, known neurotoxins aluminum and mercury.

Neither Facebook nor Health Feedback express any objection to Bill Nye misleading his viewers into the false belief that vaccines contain a viral or bacterial antigen component and nothing else.

Continuing in his video, Bigtree asks what happens if you inject aluminum into a baby. “Has there ever been a safety test on it?” he rhetorically inquires, then answers the question: “Never.”

He points out that mercury is the most toxic non-radioactive substance known to man and is included in flu shots being given to pregnant women. (Multi-dose vials of inactivated influenza vaccines contain the mercury-based preservative thimerosal.) Other ingredients Bigtree claims are in vaccines are formaldehyde and anti-freeze (propylene-glycol). Then he states that aluminum and mercury from vaccines end up in the brain. After rhetorically asking what happens when these neurotoxic substances reach the brain, Bigtree suggests that one consequence can be encephalopathy. It is at this point that he shows encephalopathy listed as a possible adverse event on the MMR vaccine package insert.

Here, Bigtree does mislead his viewers by implying that the MMR vaccine contains either aluminum or mercury, or both. In fact, it contains neither. Moreover, while formaldehyde is used in vaccines, propylene-glycol is not; although another chemical used to make anti-freeze, polyethylene glycol, has been. Had Facebook’s “Fact-Checker” taken an objective approach, they would have pointed out that Bigtree was right to criticize Nye for misleading his viewers, but wrong to suggest that either of these ingredients are in the MMR vaccine and wrong to say that anti-freeze is an ingredient in vaccines. Instead, they hypocritically singled out Bigtree for criticism.

Furthermore, Health Feedback itself hypocritically misinforms its readers, stating falsely that “No scientific evidence supports a causal association between vaccines or its ingredients (thimerosal, aluminum adjuvants, propylene glycol) and encephalopathy.”

“The claim that the MMR vaccine causes encephalopathy”, the Health Feedback article continues, “is based on a misinterpretation of the vaccine package insert information.”

The article acknowledges that multi-dose vials of the flu shot do contain thimerosal, which is about half ethylmercury by weight. But it claims that ethylmercury is “eliminated by the body quickly, unlike methylmercury, meaning that it does not accumulate in the body.”

Likewise, the article acknowledges that vaccines can contain aluminum salts, which are used as an adjuvant, meaning a substance included in a vaccine to elicit a stronger immune response. But, the article adds, “the levels in vaccines are low and safe”.

Also acknowledged is the fact that encephalopathy appears on the MMR package insert under the heading “Adverse Reactions”. The article argues, however, that the insert explicitly lists these “without regard to causality”, and that it is “therefore erroneous to assert a causal relationship between vaccines and encephalopathy on the basis of the package insert information.”

Health Feedback further argues: “The claim that vaccine safety is completely unknown is false. The Institute of Medicine—part of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine—reviewed childhood immunization schedules and found them to be safe.”

The truth is, however, that on every single one of these points, it is Facebook and its “Fact-Checker” partner who are misinforming the public.

Read more at: JeremyRHammond.com

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