COVID-19 vaccine reaction

Photo: Canva

Disinformation Dozen: Here are the 12 people behind world’s COVID-19 vaccine fake news

A well-oiled propaganda machine.

COVID-19 vaccine reaction

Photo: Canva

A recent report published by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) and Anti-Vax Watch suggest that approximately two-thirds of COVID-19 misinformation originates from 12 people.

What does this mean? Well, approximately 65% of the anti-vaccine content you see on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms have recently been tied to “just 12 individuals or organizations” globally.

Social media is then used to further spread propaganda about vaccines. Here’s what you need to know.

COVID-19 and Anti-Vax fake news

The study 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”.

 Imran Ahmed, CEO of CCDH explains that disinformation “has become a direct threat to public health” and was created to mislead the general population about the safety of 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.”

 Imran Ahmed, CEO of CCDH

The spread of misinformation continued despite major social media platforms’ determination to clamp down on propaganda. Sadly, “these [12] individuals have largely been permitted to maintain their presence across mainstream social media”.

The 12 individuals and organizations mentioned in the report have repeatedly violated Facebook and Twitter’s terms of service agreements during the global pandemic.

How to stop the Disinformation Dozen

The vast reach of misinformation has now led to the CCDH and Anti-Vax Watch issuing a call to action to social media giants, urging them to “remove those responsible for the majority of anti-vaccine content”.

Ahmed explains that 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”.

“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”.

He says the only way to stop the spread of anti-vaccine propaganda would be to “remove the Disinformation Dozen from their platforms.” Social media giants should also take steps to further decrease the presence of online misinformation.

Who are the Disinformation Dozen

The biggest culprit mentioned in the report is Joseph Mercola, an alternative medicine promoter who runs a multimillion-dollar business selling dietary supplements online.

The list also includes John F. Kennedy’s nephew, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who was recently banned from Instagram for violating the site’s coronavirus vaccine misinformation policy. Twitter has yet to take action against Kennedy, Jr.

Other members of the Disinformation Dozen include Sherri Tenpenny, Ty & Charlene Bollinger, Rizza Islam, Ben Tapper, Rashid Buttar, Sayer Ji, Kelly Brogan, Erin Elizabeth, Christiane Northrup, and Kevin Jenkins.