In Just 12 People Are Behind Most Vaccine Hoaxes On Social Media, Research Shows, Shannon Bond shows that just a dozen people are responsible for the majority of misleading and untruthful information about COVID-19 vaccines on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
This group, referred to as the “Disinformation Dozen,” (Joseph Mercola, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Ty and Charlene Bollinger, Sherri Tenpenny, Rizza Islam, Rashid Buttar, Erin Elizabeth, Sayer Ji, Kelly Brogan, Christiane Northrup, Ben Tapper and Kevin Jenkins) was identified by the Center for Countering Digital Hate for producing 65% of the shares of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms. These claims include denying that COVID exists, advocating for false cures, and accusing doctors of being motivated by other factors when they recommend vaccines. According to Bond, our country is at a time where most adults who want the vaccine have gotten it and many others are “holding out,” meaning that these people could have a significant impact on the vaccination rate in the U.S. Politicians and health officials have called for social media platforms to intervene. Facebook has taken down accounts of these individuals, labeled misleading posts and sometimes banned people who repeatedly share debunked claims. Twitter has also taken action, permanently suspending two of the “Disinformation Dozen” accounts for repeatedly breaking its rules and removing over 22,000 tweets for violating its COVID policies.
I think it is interesting that I have only heard of a few names on the list of people who seem to be so influential. I think this speaks to the polarizing effects of the media. As someone who got the vaccine as soon as I was eligible, I hardly ever see anti-vaccine content on my timelines. Perhaps this is because, as we discussed in previous classes, location and other factors can influence the media a person sees. I also wonder, what are the responsibilities of social media platforms in this issue? How do these guidelines exist without infringing on the first amendment right of free speech? The government has ruled that when speech causes harm it can be regulated. I would argue that by spreading misinformation about COVID-19, these individuals are posing a clear and present danger on the health of our country, and therefore it is within our rights to regulate their speech.