Surprising research has revealed that only a dozen people are responsible for most of the COVID-19 vaccine hoaxes and lies on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Yet social media companies have failed to adequately control the dangerous disinformation and its disseminators, according to the organization which has listed what it called the “disinformation dozen”. Super-spreaders of disinformation continue to fuel vaccine reluctance among millions of Americans, which threatens to become a major obstacle to conquering the pandemic.
The “Disinformation Dozen” generates 65% share of anti-vaccine disinformation on social media platforms, the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate concluded.
The report, released in March, noted that “living in public view on the Internet, there is a small group of people who lack relevant medical expertise and who have their own pockets to queue, who abuse social media platforms to misrepresent the threat of COVID and spread misinformation about vaccine safety. “
“Anti-vaccine campaigners on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter reach over 59 million subscribers, making them the biggest and most important social media platforms for anti-vaxxers,” he said. he adds.
Particularly troubling, anti-vaxxers are using these social media platforms to “specifically target black Americans, by exploiting higher rates of vaccine reluctance in this community, to spread conspiracies and lies about the safety of COVID vaccines. The report says.
The disinformation peddlers are vaccine advocates, alternative health entrepreneurs and doctors, some of whom run multiple accounts on the platforms and profit from selling supplements and books.
Among the 12 named in the report are Joseph Mercola, who sells dietary supplements, and his business partner Erin Elizabeth, who runs an alternative health website. Also included is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy and president of Children’s Health Defense, an anti-vaccine group.
In a follow-up report Thursday, the organization called on social media platforms to take more decisive action to root out misinformation about vaccines. “Big Tech’s inability to act on the dozen disinformation has resulted in 105 pieces of vaccine disinformation being viewed up to 29 million times in the past month,” the update said.
Members of Congress and state attorneys general have urged Facebook and Twitter to ban the 12 influencers. Social media companies have been reluctant to ban them, but have cracked down in other ways by branding the posts as deceptive, suppressing lies and banning some repeat offenders.
Facebook moved Thursday against several of the accounts, according to NPR, which was the first to report on the new research.
The company has now deleted 16 accounts linked to the dozen Facebook or Instagram and has placed restrictions on 22 others, including preventing them from promoting themselves through paid ads, NPR reported Thursday.
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