The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) and the Anti-Vax Watch found out that just 12 people have been behind the majority of misleading COVID-19 anti-vaccine posts and comments on social media.
The report discovered that up to 65 percent of anti-vaccine content posted or shared on Facebook and Twitter between just February 1 and March 21 could be brought back to the "Disinformation Dozen," as the researchers have nicknamed the 12 individuals. That counts for 812,000 posts shared online in that time frame.
On Facebook alone, 73 percent of all anti-vaccine content was found to come from members of the Disinformation Dozen over the past two months, and on Twitter, up to 17 percent of that content originated from the 12 people.
The report goes into detail about who these 12 people are, and about what anti-vaccine content they've posted online. It also explains how many social media platforms, like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, fail to act even when they know misinformation is being spread through them.
Social media platforms standing by idly
For instance, the report found that nine out of the 12 "Disinformation Dozen" were never kicked off Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, even though they regularly ignored their terms of service. All in all, the CCDH discovered that social media platforms failed to act on 95 percent of COVID-19, and vaccine misinformation reports they were shown.
The 12 people in question were reported to be: Joseph Mercola, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Ty & Charlene Bollinger, Sherry Tenpenny, Rizza Islam, Erin Elizabeth, Sayer Ji, Kelly Brogan, Christiane Northrup, Ben Tapper, and Kevin Jenkins.
Since the report came out, NPR reported that Facebook had removed more of the accounts held by these 12 people. Even back in 2019, Instagram had said it would be filtering anti-vax content — but that doesn't look to have worked quite as planned. Ultimately, the issue of how social media platforms keep an eye on misinformation has not been properly addressed.
Disinformation campaigns keep growing thanks to many social media sites, with a report by the University of Oxford detailing how governments are using social media manipulation to spread their disinformation campaigns. Some nations, like India, are countering these digital attacks by creating party-specific "social media warriors" to find and fight back against disinformation campaigns.
As the world tries to keep COVID-19 in check by administering vaccines, anti-vax misinformation can lead to fatal outcomes. One of the best ways to defeat the virus, scientists and researchers say, is by creating a herd immunity against it, meaning between 60 and 90 percent of all people would need to be vaccinated to block it out. So when anti-vax misinformation spreads so virulently, lives are in danger.