Report Highlights “Disinformation Dozen” Responsible for Online COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation 

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In a recently published report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, researchers say just 12 people are responsible for the majority of disinformation on COVID-19 vaccines that is spread across online social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Overall, the researchers claim this “Disinformation Dozen” generate approximately 65% of the anti-vaccine misinformation on these platforms. 

Across the United states, up to 267 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered, with 119,000,000 Americans being fully vaccinated. This translates to approximately 36.3% of the U.S. population, a far cry from the 70% goal President Biden has said he wants to reach by July 4. 

Holdouts to vaccination have been predominantly attributed to concerns over side effects and fears regarding the long-term safety and efficacy of the authorized vaccines. According to the new report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, it's likely the 12 people online who are supposedly posting misinformation about the vaccines may be contributing to delays in reaching the country’s inoculation goals.

The new report is based on an analysis by the Center for Countering Digital Hate and Anti-Vax Watch. Researchers involved in the analysis examined a sample of anti-vaccine content posted or shared on Twitter and Facebook more than 812,000 times from February 1 and March 16, 2021. Overall, nearly two-thirds of the anti-vaccine content was sourced back to 12 prominent U.S.-based natural health leaders, vaccine critics, groups and organizations.

Many of the prominent personalities on the “Disinformation Dozen” list promote natural health and holistic products, including books and supplements. In their paper, the Center for Countering Digital Hate say the people spreading misinformation either deny the existence of COVID-19, claim efficacy for false cures where few substantial trial data exist and decry doctors and government agencies are motivated to vaccinate the public by mercenary or malevolent means. 

In addition, many of the individuals who made the list have been reportedly touting vaccine “misinformation” and health conspiracies for years. 

NPR reports that members of Congress as well as state attorneys general are urging Twitter and Facebook to ban the 12 people making these claims. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., told NPR that vaccinating Americans is essential to ending the pandemic, but “vaccine disinformation spread online has deadly consequences, which is why I have called on social media platforms to take action against the accounts propagating the majority of these lies.”

While the most popular social media platforms have yet to outright ban the “Disinformation Dozen,” they have become more rigorous in their approach to labeling posts considered misleading or false. Those considered falsehoods are often removed entirely, and in some cases people who repeatedly share debunked claims related to COVID-19 are ultimately banned from the platforms. 

In a statement, the Center for Countering Digital Hate’s Chief Executive Officer, Imran Ahmed, noted that the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google will appear this week before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee to discuss the role of their platforms in disinformation dissemination. 

"Members of the committee must use this opportunity to hold these companies accountable and urge them to follow through with their commitments to crack down on life-threatening disinformation,” Ahmed said. “A clear and immediate way to stop the spread of anti-vaccine messages is to remove the Disinformation Dozen from their platforms."

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