Vaccine-preventable diseases cause significant illness, hospitalization, pain, disability, and death in the United States, particularly when it comes to older adults.
Alliance for Aging Research Urges Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube to Stop the Spread of COVID-19 Vaccination Disinformation and Misinformation
Published August 11, 2021
Patient advocates push the social media giants to permanently remove the accounts of prominent anti-vaxxers and begin issuing corrective posts
WASHINGTON, August 11, 2021 –Today, the Alliance for Aging Research (“Alliance”) and 42 other organizations representing older adults, patients, family caregivers, diverse communities, and healthcare workers sent a letter to the Chief Executive Officers of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube urging them to completely and permanently remove the accounts of prominent anti-vaxxers and their organizing pages from their platforms. The letter also insists the leaders of these social media platforms immediately begin issuing corrective posts to counter the misinformation and disinformation in their feeds.
Researchers found a small number of individuals are responsible for the bulk of the misleading claims and outright untruths about COVID-19 vaccines on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. A March 2021 report issued by the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that approximately 65 percent of anti-vaccine content on Facebook and Twitter can be attributed to the “Disinformation Dozen” – the 12 individuals who play leading roles in intentionally spreading digital disinformation about coronavirus vaccines, and who have repeatedly violated platform policies.
The most effective and efficient way to stop the dissemination of deadly and false information is to remove the accounts—including any backup accounts—of the most highly visible repeat offenders. The Alliance and co-signing organizations call on Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube to also acknowledge the networks and organizations these individuals use to spread their anti-vax messages and remove their organizing pages. These offenders are listed in the letter.
In addition to removing the worst offenders, the letter calls on the social media giants to start immediately issuing corrective posts to counter misinformation and disinformation. The current approach of issuing a warning to users targeted by disinformation and then requiring them to click on a link to learn more is insufficient.
“Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube have a responsibility to permanently remove these offenders from the social media platforms and to do everything possible to debunk and correct these life-threatening disinformation campaigns,” said Sue Peschin, MHS, President and CEO of the Alliance for Aging Research. “Disinformation about COVID-19 vaccinations fuels vaccine hesitation and opposition, leading to otherwise preventable deaths and severe illness. Allowing false information to spread virally at this type of organized level creates actual harm. The leaders of these social media platforms are in unique positions of power and influence over the flow of social communication, and they simply must do more. Lives are depending on it.”
According to the latest survey data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the number of adults who are reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine have remained relatively unchanged since January, with 18 percent saying they either will “only get vaccinated if required” or will “definitely not” get vaccinated. The misinformation and disinformation anti-vaxxers share about vaccines and vaccine safety cause massive confusion and fear, and can lead people to decline COVID-19 vaccines, reject masking, physical distancing, and other scientifically proven health and safety measures. The letter encourages the CEOs of these platforms to take action and use their unique positions of power and influence over the flow of social communication to stop the spread of misinformation and disinformation.
The following organizations signed the letter, which you can read here:
- Academy of Medicine of Cleveland & N. Ohio
- Alliance for Aging Research
- American Muslim Health Professionals
- Association of Black Cardiologists
- Association of periOperative Registered Nurses
- Association of University Centers on Disabilities
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
- Bayard Rustin Liberation Initiative
- Caregiver Action Network
- Colorectal Cancer Alliance
- COVID Survivors for Change
- END SEPSIS, the Legacy of Rory Staunton
- Global Healthy Living Foundation
- Health Care Voices
- Heart Valve Voice US
- HelpAge USA
- Illinois Public Health Association
- Immunization Action Coalition
- International Foundation for Autoimmune &
- Autoinflammatory Arthritis (AiArthritis)
- Kimberly Coffey Foundation
- Looms for Lupus
- Lupus and Allied Diseases Association, Inc.
- Lupus Foundation New England
- Meningitis B Action Project
- National Association of Social Workers
- National Caucus and Center on Black Aging
- National Consumers League
- National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
- National Osteoporosis Foundation
- NeedyMeds, Inc.
- NTM Info & Research
- Nurses Who Vaccinate
- Sepsis Alliance
- Stop the Spread
- The AIDS Institute
- The Gerontological Society of America
- Vaccinate Your Family
- Why We Vax
- WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women
- with Heart Disease
- ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer
About the Alliance for Aging Research
The Alliance for Aging Research is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the pace of scientific discoveries and their application to vastly improve the universal human experience of aging and health. The Alliance believes advances in research help people live longer, happier, more productive lives and reduce healthcare costs over the long term. For more than 30 years, the Alliance has guided efforts to substantially increase funding and focus for aging at the National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration; built influential coalitions to guide groundbreaking regulatory improvements for age-related diseases; and created award-winning, high-impact educational materials to improve the health and well-being of older adults and their family caregivers. For more information, visit www.agingresearch.org