After a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) and Anti-Vax Watch found that a huge percentage of misinformation and conspiracy theories about vaccines can be traced back to just a dozen people, the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter told Congress they weren’t sure they would ban them.
The CCDH/Anti-Vax Watch report found that some 73 percent of misinformation on Facebook, and 17 percent on Twitter, is linked to a group of 12 accounts including prominent anti-vaxxers Joseph Mercola, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Ty & Charlene Bollinger, Sherri Tenpenny, and Rizza Islam. The report also identified what it concluded were clear violations of platform policies on the spread of disinformation about the novel coronavirus pandemic and vaccines in general. The report was prominently cited in a letter by 12 state attorneys general to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg demanding they do more to fight coronavirus-related misinformation; according to the Washington Post, this mirrors internal Facebook research showing relatively tiny groups of users are primarily responsible for flooding the site with anti-vaccine content.
“Analysis of a sample of anti-vaccine content that was shared or posted on Facebook and Twitter a total of 812,000 times between 1 February and 16 March 2021 shows that 65 percent of anti-vaccine content is attributable to the Disinformation Dozen,” the report states. “Despite repeatedly violating Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter’s terms of service agreements, nine of the Disinformation Dozen remain on all three platforms, while just three have been comprehensively removed from just one platform.”
“Research conducted by CCDH last year has shown that platforms fail to act on 95 percent of the Covid and vaccine misinformation reported to them, and we have uncovered evidence that Instagram’s algorithm actively recommends similar misinformation,” they added. “Tracking of 425 anti-vaccine accounts by CCDH shows that their total following across platforms now stands at 59.2 million as a result of these failures.”