Taylor Winterstein runs an anti-vax blog.
Taylor Winterstein runs an anti-vax blog.

Instagram WAGS hit for antivax ‘hoax’

The wives of two rugby league stars have had restrictions put on their Instagram accounts for spreading anti-vaxxer messages.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, introduced tougher rules this month for users sharing dangerous anti-vaccine messages to their followers.

Rugby league WAGs Taylor Winterstein, wife of new Penrith Panther recruit Frank Winterstein, and Shanelle Cartwright who is married to Gold Coast Titans player Bryce Cartwright, have reportedly been caught up in the move by the tech giant to clamp down on harmful disinformation.

According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, Instagram has taken action against both women, ensuring they cannot post permanently on their feeds. The women's accounts can reportedly only post on a temporary feed which disappears after 24 hours.

Ms Winterstein's Instagram page states she is interested in "Vaccine Injury Awareness".

"Mobilizing (sic) the next generation of parents to TAKE BACK CONTROL of their family's health," it reads.

She has made headlines in recent weeks for running $200 workshops teaching other parents about her views on the controversial anti-vax movement. She refers to herself as an ex-vaxxer rather than an anti-vaxxer.

Meanwhile Ms Cartwright told her followers in an Instagram Q&A earlier this year she had abandoned vaccines and would not vaccinate her newborn.

Later explaining the decision in more detail, she said she and her husband had based their decision after lots of research, citing Dr Suzanne Humphries books as a source, a prominent voice in the anti-vaxxer community.

Taylor Winterstein runs an anti-vax blog.
Taylor Winterstein runs an anti-vax blog.

Facebook has been hit with criticism for allowing public anti-vaxxer messages and groups to proliferate on social media and has shared some of the blame for the movement.

But the company has responded, and last month introduced measures to prevent dangerous and misinformed anti-vaccination messages gaining traction.

In a video that has since been removed, Ms Cartwright told her 8600 followers she has been momentarily censored by Instagram for the anti-vaxxer content.

"A few of you have asked me to post more vaccine things," she said in the video. "I'm actually not going to because my page was censored for about a week a couple of weeks ago so I'm not going to."

Ms Cartwright said her friend Taylor Winterstein had been "censored too," the Telegraph reported.

In a statement issued to news.com.au, an Instagram spokesperson said the company is working to remove "vaccine hoaxes".

"As part of our work to address health-related misinformation on Instagram, we're exploring ways to reduce the distribution of vaccine misinformation," they said.

"We are relying on the work of leading global health organisations, such as the World Health Organisation, which have publicly identified verifiable vaccine hoaxes. If these vaccine hoaxes appear on our platforms, we will take action against them."

Both Facebook and Instagram are exploring ways to minimise the spread of such disinformation via measures like blocking hashtags, and removing sensitive subjects from its "Suggest for you" and search functions.

"We will reduce the ranking of groups and Pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations in News Feed and Search," Facebook said when it announced the new rules on March 7.

"We are exploring ways to share educational information about vaccines when people come across misinformation on this topic."

Bryce Cartwright with partner Shanelle Cartwright. Ms Cartwright has reportedly had her Instagram affected by changes made to thwart anti-vaxxer disinformation.
Bryce Cartwright with partner Shanelle Cartwright. Ms Cartwright has reportedly had her Instagram affected by changes made to thwart anti-vaxxer disinformation.

Australian Health authorities continue to publicly warn about the dangers of not protecting against disease.

Currently, unvaccinated children are banned from enrolling in preschool in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland under the 'no jab, no play' laws.

At a federal level, the Australian government has previously introduced laws that link immunisations to benefit payments available to families

Global health authorities have also sought to address the issue of rising anti-vaxxer sentiment.

Figures released by the World Health Organisation last month found Europe experienced a record number of people impacted by measles in 2018, with experts blaming anti-vaxxer messaging as a main driver behind the spike.

 

Bryce Cartwright with partner Shanelle Cartwright.
Bryce Cartwright with partner Shanelle Cartwright.


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