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Sunday, June 13, 2021 | 06:13 am
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Facebook Says It Removed the Internet’s 12 Most Prominent Anti-Vaxxers

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Facebook Says It Removed the Internet’s 12 Most Prominent Anti-Vaxxers

One month ago, a report came out detailing how the majority of the anti-vaccination disinformation spreading online originated from just 12 individuals.

During a hearing at the time, CEOs of the Big Tech companies vowed to take on the falsehoods running rampant on their platforms and threatening public health.

Fast forward to today. While the Big Tech CEOs didn’t show up for Tuesday’s Congressional hearing, the companies did send representatives. And, when asked about these 12 anti-vaxxers, known as the Disinformation Dozen, a Facebook executive said that the social network took action on what was included in the report.

However, the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) and Anti-Vax Watch, the two organizations that put together the original report, say that’s not the case.

10 out of these 12 individuals remain on Facebook, the organizations say. Nine of the Disinformation Dozen are still on Instagram, a platform owned by Facebook. And over on Twitter, 10 out of 12 of these anti-vaxxers still have accounts as well.

In response to the hearing, the CCDH and Anti-Vax Watch have just put out what they are calling the “sequel” to the initial Disinformation Dozen report. It provides multiple examples of how these prominent anti-vaxxers, such as Joseph Mercola, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Rizza Islam, have violated Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter’s own policies on COVID-19 and vaccination misinformation.

The new report focuses on 105 pieces of content from the Disinformation Dozen posted over the past 30 days that clearly violate the social media companies’ terms of service, according to the two organizations. They say the content included in the report has been viewed up to 29 million times since March 25.

“I know that we’ve assessed that content and removed those accounts that were violating,” said Facebook vice president for content policy Monika Bickert in a response to a question from Senator Amy Klobuchar specifically regarding the 12 individuals. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing focused on how social media algorithms promote misinformation and extremist content.

Senator Klobuchar had previously written a letter to Facebook and Twitter about COVID-19 misinformation, specifically citing the original report on the individuals who have been dubbed the Disinformation Dozen.

As people in the U.S. continue to sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations, a recent poll found that 1 in 4 Americans will not get the vaccine. Many of them could very well be basing this decision on the rampant anti-vaccine disinformation spreading online.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate and Anti-Vax Watch are urging the big social media platforms to take action and enforce their own policies.

“Big Tech promised to protect public health by taking enforcement action against known, repeat-offender vaccine disinformation superspreaders. Yet, so far, they have failed to finish the job,” said CCDH CEO Imran Ahmed in a statement. “The CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram know exactly who is violating their terms of service. Their lies cost lives, and social media companies’ refusal to remove them has dire consequences. Big Tech must stop profiting from the spread of this disinformation.”

Mashable has reached out to Facebook regarding the actions the company took as mentioned at today’s hearing and will update this post when we hear back.

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