Disinformation Dozen: Two-Thirds of Online Anti-Vaccine Content Originates from Top 12 Anti-Vax Leaders

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March 24, 2021
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Disinformation Dozen: Two-Thirds of Online Anti-Vaccine Content Originates from Top 12 Anti-Vax Leaders

New analysis highlights urgent need for Facebook, Twitter to remove repeat offenders prolonging the pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Up to 65 percent of anti-vaccine content circulating on major social media networking sites is tied to just 12 individuals or organizations who use social media to spread propaganda about vaccines, according to a new report.

The report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) and Anti-Vax Watch is based on analysis of a sample of anti-vaccine content that had been shared or posted on Facebook and Twitter over 812,000 times between February 1 and March 16, 2021. It found that almost two-thirds of the content was the responsibility of 12 of the country’s most prominent anti-vaccine leaders, groups and organizations.

“Disinformation has become a direct threat to public health,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO of CCDH. “In the midst of a global pandemic, the Anti-Vaccine Industry has executed a targeted campaign to mislead Americans about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines. Social media is enabling anti-vaxxers to recruit millions of Americans and indoctrinate them with fear and doubt. If Big Tech companies don’t act now, the pandemic will be prolonged, and more lives will be lost.”

Despite the recent pledged crackdown against misinformation by social media platforms, these individuals have largely been permitted to maintain their presence across mainstream social media platforms.

The Disinformation Dozen – which includes Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Joseph Mercola, and Ty and Charlene Bollinger, among others – have repeatedly violated Facebook and Twitter’s terms of service agreements. The majority of the Disinformation Dozen remain on all three sites despite social media operators pledging to remove vaccine disinformation from their platforms.

In their joint report, CCDH and Anti-Vax Watch issue a call to action to social media giants urging them to remove those responsible for the majority of anti-vaccine content.

“This week, the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google will appear before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee to discuss the role of social media in the spread of disinformation,” Ahmed continued. “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. A clear and immediate way to stop the spread of anti-vaccine messages is to remove the Disinformation Dozen from their platforms.”

In addition to removing repeat offenders, the report outlines steps social media platforms can take to decrease the presence of misinformation on users’ feeds.

Read the full report here: https://f4d9b9d3-3d32-4f3a-afa6-49f8bf05279a.usrfiles.com/ugd/f4d9b9_16ccca9c25a04445a69dcd0298fd530d.pdf

About the Center for Countering Digital Hate

The Center for Countering Digital Hate is an international not-for-profit NGO that seeks to disrupt the architecture of online hate and misinformation. The Center has offices in London and Washington DC. The Center’s work combines both analysis and active disruption of these networks. CCDH’s solutions seek to increase the economic, political and social costs of all parts of the infrastructure – the actors, systems and culture – that support, and often profit from hate and misinformation.

About Anti-Vax Watch

Anti-Vax Watch is an alliance of concerned individuals who are seeking to educate the American public about the dangers of the anti-vax industry. Our efforts center around bringing to light the nefarious activities of the anti-vaccine industry and working with leading experts to dispute their falsehoods and non-medical disinformation with science, research and expert analysis. Our goal is to support the efforts of leading health experts, pro-vaccine researchers and educators, civil rights and business organizations, and others who, like us, recognize the importance of raising awareness of the science of vaccines.


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