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Anti-Vaxxer Lies Still Rampant on Social Media

We all know how hard a time killer Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has looking out for people. While he’s busy tagging along with Republican A.G.s shouting about a dead pipeline, he’s ignoring a call by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and eleven other A.G.s to Facebook and Twitter to clamp down on false information about coronavirus vaccines:

“Misinformation disseminated via your platforms has increased vaccine hesitancy, which will slow economic recovery and, more importantly, ultimately cause even more unnecessary deaths,” the group of attorneys general state in the letter. The letter sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Wednesday is signed by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia.

They note that purveyors of vaccine misinformation have often targeted Black Americans, “members of communities who have suffered the worst health impacts of the virus and whose vaccination rates are lagging” [Shannon Vavra, “State Prosecutors Push Facebook, Twitter to Do More to Slow Virus Misinformation,” CyberScoop, 2021.03.25].

Twitter and Facebook say they are already taking reasonable steps to counter liars who threaten public health:

A spokesperson for Twitter noted that the platform has removed over 20,000 posts from the platform and challenged nearly 12 million accounts under its coronavirus misinformation policy.

“We will not take action on every instance of misinformation. In order for content related to COVID-19 to be labeled or removed under this policy, it must: advance a claim of fact, expressed in definitive terms; be demonstrably false or misleading, based on widely available, authoritative sources; and be likely to impact public safety or cause serious harm,” they explained.

Facebook spokesperson Kevin McAlister told The Hill that the platform has “already taken action against some of the groups in this report.”

“Since research shows that the best way to combat vaccine hesitancy is to connect people to reliable information from health experts, we’ve also connected over 2 billion people to resources from health authorities, including through our COVID-19 Information Center,” he added [Anagha Srikanth, “12 Prominent People Opposed to Vaccines Are Responsible for Two-Thirds of Anti-Vaccine Content Online: Report,” The Hill, 2021.03.24].

Despite those efforts, Attorney General Ellison and his colleagues note that liars are still flooding our online mindspace with lies that prolong the pandemic and costs lives and GDP. The A.G.s cite a new report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate that contends that socialmedia platforms “fail to act on 95 percent of the Covid and vaccine misinformation reported to them.”  twelve anti-vaxxers—the “Disinformation Dozen“—are responsible for 65% of the anti-vaccine propaganda plaguing social media in general and 73% of the anti-vaxxer lies posted to Facebook from February 1 through March 16. The CCDH calls on Facebook and Twitter to boot those twelve liars and organizations that help spread their lies:

The most effective and efficient way to stop the dissemination of harmful information is to deplatform the most highly visible repeat offenders, who we term the Disinformation Dozen. This should also include the organisations these individuals control or fund, as well as any backup accounts they have established to evade removal.

  1. Joseph Mercola
  2. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
  3. Ty and Charlene Bollinger
  4. Sherri Tenpenny
  5. Rizza Islam
  6. Rashid Buttar
  7. Erin Elizabeth
  8. Sayer Ji
  9. Kelly Brogan
  10. Christiane Northrup
  11. BenTapper
  12. Kevin Jenkins

Deplatform key anti-vaxxer organisations

In addition to deplatforming the personal accounts of the Disinformation Dozen, platforms must also acknowledge the real-world networks they use to spread their anti- vaccine messages. This means deplatforming key organisations that are linked to the Disinformation Dozen or simply help spread their messages.

The CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and Google testified to House Commerce and Energy Thursday about what more they can do to fight false information on their websites. Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) suggested a new federal agency to regulate social media, and the CEOs, sensing the mounting pressure against them from all sides on Capitol Hill, didn’t immediately say No way. Twitter chief Jack Doresey, however, noted his own aversion to taking responsibility for truth, saying, “I don’t think we should be the arbiters of truth and I don’t think the government should be either.”

But hey, Dorsey likes fake money, too, so defending truth is up to all the rest of us. While we wait for social media companies to put truth above eyeballs and profits, the CCDH reminds us we all can do our part to fight malarkey:

Center for Countering Digital Hate, "How to Be a Vaccine Ally," graphic from The Anti-Vaxx Playbook, Fall 2020.
Center for Countering Digital Hate, “How to Be a Vaccine Ally,” graphic from The Anti-Vaxx Playbook, Fall 2020.


  1. Mark Anderson 2021-03-26 11:17

    At least anti vaxxers were bipartisan. Idiots of course and if it didn’t hurt other people it would be entertaining to watch them, but along with the proud boys, three percenters, and all the other kooks that are now the base of the trumpie party its just sad.

  2. bearcreekbat 2021-03-26 13:45

    Upon reflection there is a logical reason for all anti-vaxers, although they are unlikely to acknowledge this reason due to shame and embarrassment. My Occam’s Razor guess is that anti-vaxers simply have not been able to shed their childhood dread of getting poked by a needle when given a shot.

  3. Mark Anderson 2021-03-26 16:35

    You know bearcreekbat, just got my second shot yesterday, and it really hurts now, but I didn’t feel either shot when given. Tiny little needles, however needles did keep me from ever trying heroin so I do feel sympathy for anti -vaxxers.

  4. bearcreekbat 2021-03-26 18:52

    Mark, I got my second Covid vaccine shot two weeks ago and my experience was similar to yours, I didn’t really feel a thing when I got the shots and my arm was a bit sore for a while the day after each shot. The flu shot and shingles shots felt about the same for me earlier this year. In each case I am convinced the experience was much less traumatic than experiencing Covid, the flu or shingles would have been.

  5. Jenny 2021-03-26 21:01

    Proud to have Keith Ellison as our AG here in MN. This guy is an extremely knowledgeable bright hardworking leader for the state who always has our back, a true social justice warrior.

  6. mike from iowa 2021-11-14 12:04

    From Rolling Stone magazine… Clapton recently embarked on a U.S. tour booked in red states despite surging transmission numbers and death rates — and at venues that largely don’t require proof of vaccination. In the process, this Sixties icon, who embraced the sex, drugs, and rock & roll lifestyle as much as anyone in his generation, has drawn praise from conservative pundits. In Austin, he posed for backstage photos with Texas’ anti-vax-mandate Gov. Greg Abbott, known for his attacks on abortion and voting rights. The sight of Clapton in backstage photos with the notorious governor amounted to a deal killer for some: “I just deleted all my Clapton songs,” went one comment on Abbott’s Twitter feed, along with, “A Kid Rock type with better guitar skills. Done with him.”

    e tu, Clapton?

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