Anti-vaxxers can no longer raise cash on GoFundMe as the fundraising platform cracks down on spreading misinformation about vaccines.
Vaccines have been around for a long time. The earliest known instances of vaccinations took place in China, where peasant farmers would inoculate themselves against smallpox by inhaling scabs that had been ground into a powder. Things got a lot more effective in the latter part of the 19th century as vaccines were developed for anthrax, cholera, and later diphtheria, measles, mumps, and rubella.
Smallpox was eradicated in the 1960s and ‘70s. Measles too had been eradicated in the United States, but with the help of the anti-vaxxer movement, outbreaks are occurring across the country.
One of the reasons for the movement’s success has been the pernicious use of social media to spread their message. Facebook, Instagram, and other internet sites have allowed anti-vaccine advertisements and groups in the past, but have since started cracking down on the spread of misinformation in the wake of these viral outbreaks.
GoFundMe has also taken a stand against anti-vaxxers, announcing last month that they too would remove anti-vaxx campaigns from their platform.
"Campaigns raising money to promote misinformation about vaccines violate GoFundMe's terms of service and we are removing them from the platform," the company said in a statement, noting that the incidents of anti-vaxx campaigns remained "extremely rare".
But not unheard of. The Independent reported that a highly successful campaign under the name of Larry Cook raised almost $80,000 to purchase Facebook ads targeting young mothers and urging them to avoid vaccinating their children.
Other messages were even more successful. The Daily Beast reported that anti-vaccine movements raised a combined $170,000 on GoFundMe before the crackdown began. The Independent reports that there are still several anti-vaxx campaigns on the site, but very few have any actual backers.
The World Health Organization has named “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the major health crises affecting the world today. A recent outbreak of measles in Madagascar has so far killed 1,200 people, while outbreaks continue across the United States. Michigan and New York are the latest states to report measles outbreaks as a result of anti-vaxx messages.