“There is a small group of people on the Internet who do not have relevant medical knowledge and their own pockets, who abuse social media platforms to misrepresent the threat of COVID and spread misinformation about the safety of vaccines,” said it in the report of the nonprofit committed to disrupting “the spread of digital hatred and misinformation”.
The center identified the dozen “because they have large numbers of followers, produce large amounts of anti-vaccine content, or have seen rapid growth in their social media accounts over the past two months.” Among them arewho heads an anti-vaccine group; Dr. Joseph Mercola, who made a fortune selling nutritional supplements as an alternative to vaccines; and Ty and Charlene Bollinger, founders of “The Truth About Cancer”.
“They are not just individuals … these are individuals who have big companies behind them that they run themselves. They are pumping our misinformation with the aim of convincing people not to follow clinical guidelines and instead use their wrong cures to buy or buy access to what they claim is the truth about coronavirus and vaccines, “Imran Ahmed, founder and CEO of the Center to Combat Digital Hate, told CBSN on Wednesday.
The center analyzed over 812,000 posts on Facebook and Twitter vaccines between February 1 and March 16 of this year. 65 percent of the anti-vaccine contributions came from one of the 12 “Disinformation Dozen”.
“Anti-vaccine activists on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter have more than 59 million followers, making them the largest and most important social media platforms for anti-Vaxxers,” the report said. The center also noted that these accounts specifically targeted black Americans who wereso far.
The organization has urged Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter to deplatform the “Disinformation Dozen” as well as the organizations they are affiliated with. Three of the 12 were extensively removed from at least one platform, but none were removed from all.
“Facebook, Google and Twitter have put in place guidelines to prevent the spread of misinformation about vaccines. So far, none of them have been satisfactorily enforced,” the report said. “All have been particularly ineffective in cleaning up harmful and dangerous misinformation about coronavirus vaccines, although the extent of the misinformation on Facebook, and therefore the impact of its failure, is greater.”
A spokesman for Twitter told CBS News it had removed 22,400 tweets as part of its COVID-19 “misleading information policy” and “challenged” nearly 12 million accounts. Dani Lever, a spokesman for Facebook, said the company had removed more than 2 million pieces of content since February.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg told lawmakers on the house’s energy and trade committeethat its platform divides misinformation into categories, the most serious of which is what could cause “imminent physical harm”. False claims about the coronavirus or its vaccines could make someone sick, and therefore .
“”That’s the broad approach we have … that explains some of the differences between some of the different issues and how we approach them, “Zuckerberg said.
This “broad approach” has been criticized by a group ofwho have urged Facebook and Twitter to “take immediate steps” to tackle online lies against “Vaxxer” as efforts to vaccinate the public against COVID-19 continue.
In a letter to Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday, attorneys general urged social media giants to fully identify and enforce corporate terms of service to combat vaccine disinformation and misinformation.
“A small group of people are using your platforms to downplay the dangers of COVID-19 and spread misinformation about vaccine safety,” the group quoted the CCDH report as saying. “These people have no medical expertise and are often motivated by financial interests.”
In addition to deplatforming the dozen, the center recommends platforms establish a clear threshold for enforcement action, display corrective posts for users exposed to disinformation, add warning screens when users click links to misinformation pages, and establish an accountability API (application programming interface). and ban private and secret anti-vaccine facebook groups.
“(Your) content can harm human life,” Ahmed told CBSN. “Not just the individuals themselves, but more cruelly the people they love and our communities as a whole.”