January 28, 2021

Misinformation ‘superspreaders’: Covid vaccine falsehoods thriving

by Interfaith

Misinformation ‘superspreaders’: Covid vaccine falsehoods still thriving on Facebook and Instagram


Lois Beckett in Los Angeles

 “Conspiracy theories and misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine are still spreading on Facebook and Instagram, more than a month after Facebook pledged it would take them down.

Under pressure to contain an avalanche of falsehoods, Facebook announced on 3 December that it would ban debunked claims about the safety and efficacy of vaccines now being distributed worldwide. The company said it removed more than 12m pieces of content from Facebook and Instagram between March and October, and that it worked with factcheckers to place labels on 167 million more pieces of content over the same period.

But researchers say that big Facebook accounts, some with more than half a million followers and long histories of promoting falsehoods, are still openly churning out new posts questioning the vaccine. Meanwhile, prominent anti-vaxxers who have been banned from Facebook are continuing to spread misinformation to hundreds of thousands of people on Instagram, which Facebook owns.


The social network says it has limited the reach of some prominent anti-vaxx Facebook pages, and that few people are seeing some of the latest coronavirus misinformation. But misinformation experts say the platform’s actions amount to far too little, too late.

In a December report, the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), which has tracked the rapid growth of the anti-vaccine movement during the pandemic, argued that it was past time for tech platforms to take more aggressive action.

“Anything less than the dismantling of these individuals’ profiles, pages and groups and permanent denial of service, now they know what is happening, is willing acquiescence.”

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization had labeled “vaccine hesitancy” – the reluctance to get vaccines even when they are available – as one of the top 10 threats to global health.

Experts say the past year has brought a troubling escalation of an anti-vaccine movement that had already flourished on social media, where anti-vaxx activists had used private Facebook groups to convince mothers not to vaccinate their children, and to coordinate social media harassment campaigns against doctors who explained the medical benefits of vaccines.

Major anti-vaccine accounts on social media platforms have gained more than 10 million new followers since 2019, including 4 million additional followers on Instagram and 1 million on Facebook, according to an analysis by the CCDH …”

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