Culture

Just 12 People Are Responsible For 65 Percent Of The COVID Vaccine Lies Swirling Online

The group includes an bodybuilder, a blogger and *checks notes* a nephew of John F. Kennedy.

Pastel blue and pink background with black and white COVID vaccine jars

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Many of us see misinformation around COVID and vaccines reposted by wellness influencers and distant relatives alike, but that ‘research‘ they’re doing is potentially being created by just 12 people — just 12 people create 65 percent of the vaccine disinformation on the internet.

‘The Disinformation Dozen’ are a group of twelve people identified by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate as being responsible for 65 percent of the disinformation you find online about vaccines.

The group includes a blogger, a former bodybuilder, a gynaecologist and even a nephew of John F Kennedy, Robert F Kennedy Jr, who has been blocked on Instagram for spreading mistrust in vaccinations, yet is still spreading fear on Twitter.

The ‘Disinformation Dozen’

The difference between disinformation and misinformation is intent — while misinformation does not have the intent to manipulate people, disinformation does, according to The Conversation.

According to the report, the group have “large numbers of followers, produce high volumes of anti-vaccine content or have seen rapid growth of their social media accounts,” the report reads.

According to the author of the Disinformation Dozen report, Imran Ahmed, chief executive officer of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the claims of these powerful 12 can reach from COVID denial to fake cures or claiming that doctors are invested in other interests.

The report says that anti-vaccine activists on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter reach more than 59 million followers, “making these the largest and most important social media platforms for anti-vaxxers.”

Joseph Mercola is another — he’s a strong figure in the anti-vaxx movement — even from the pre-COVID movement (how retro of him) — and he just so happens to have a multi-million dollar business selling vitamins and supplements. As Jan Fran reported in a recent episode of Question Everything, just one of his articles ‘How COVID vaccines may destroy the lives of millions’ was shared 12,000 times, and he wrote another 600 articles.

“Our research has also found anti-vaxxers using social media platforms to target Black Americans,” the report states. “Exploiting higher rates of vaccine hesitancy in that community to spread conspiracies and lies about the safety of COVID vaccines.”

The report’s analysis of more than 120,000 anti-vaccine tweets collected in two months found that up to 17 percent feature the Disinformation Dozen.

Social media networks like Facebook have attempted to address vaccine disinformation — and we’ve all seen the little white bubbles encouraging us to click through to reliable sources, but is that really going to swing people?

As social media platforms attempt to rid themselves of false information, anti-vaxx enthusiasts are attempt to get around the censoring. Some won’t use the word “vaccine” in captions or videos, to avoid the content being taken down, instead holding up their fingers in a V sign to signal what they’re talking about.

You can watch the full rundown on Question Everything below.

But people aren’t only getting their information from the social media big players. There has been huge growth in the encrypted platform Telegram which hosts community forums — Telegram played a big role in spreading anti-lockdown protest promotion.

In Australia, Telegram groups including Vaccine Choice Australia and Australia Freedom Rally have thousands of members sharing fear-laced information, sharing videos claiming hospitals are using Ivermectin on vaccinated people, and that it cannot be proven that the COVID vaccine works.

In an age when we have access to more information than ever before, and we are ever the more connected, the risk of disinformation spreading impacts us all.