Only 12 people on the internet are responsible for the majority of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter’s most popular misleading claims and lies about COVID-19 vaccines, research has found.
Imran Ahmed, the chief executive officer of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, shared that the 12 people— expertly coined as the “Disinformation Dozen”—produce “65% of the shares of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms.”
Platforms are now being urged to “act” on those who are sharing misinformation, as the 12 social media users— who are known as anti-vaccine activists, alternative health entrepreneurs and physicians, some with multiple accounts and even books—are having a negative impact on people’s decisions to get vaccinated, with most Americans who’ve wanted a vaccine already getting one. Many of the claims they make are the same ones made in the past about previous vaccines, in an effort to spread misinformation, NPR points out.
“It’s almost like conspiracy theory Mad Libs. They just inserted the new claims,” John Gregory, a deputy health editor at NewsGuard, said.
Ahmed said that their claims include “denying that COVID exists, claiming that false cures are in fact the way to solve COVID and not vaccination, decrying vaccines and decrying doctors as being in some way venal or motivated by other factors when they recommend vaccines.”
After NPR published their story on the research, Facebook confirmed that it had removed more of the accounts run by those spreading misinformation. Twitter permanently suspended two of the members.
“We reacted early and aggressively to the COVID-19 pandemic by working with health experts to update our misinformation policy to target harmful claims about COVID-19 and vaccines, including taking action against some of the accounts in the CCDH report,” Facebook spokesperson Kevin McAlister said. “In total, we’ve removed more than 16 million pieces of content which violate our policies and we continue to work with health experts to regularly update these policies as new facts and trends emerge.”