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12 AGs Call on Facebook, Twitter to Halt Spread of Vaccine Misinformation

mark zuckerberg testifies on capitol hill
In this Oct. 23, 2019, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Andrew Harnik/AP Photo)

By    |   Wednesday, 24 March 2021 01:22 PM

Twelve attorneys general are calling on Facebook and Twitter to take additional steps in halting the spread of misinformation on coronavirus vaccines, "to prevent needless infection and death and to hasten our road to recovery," they wrote in a letter to CEOs Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey.

"The availability of safe and effective vaccines means the end of this pandemic is in sight. But our ability to do so quickly and limit further loss of life depends on broad public acceptance of these vaccines," the attorneys general, led by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, wrote in a letter sent Wednesday.

"False information regarding the safety of coronavirus vaccines by a small number of individuals lacking medical expertise and often motivated by their own financial interests has reached over 59 million followers on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, threatening to undermine vaccine acceptance and harm the nation’s recovery. Anti-vaxxers have used these platforms to disproportionately target people of color and Black Americans specifically — communities who have already suffered the worst health impacts of the virus and whose vaccination rates are already lagging."

Anti-vaccine content remains prevalent on several social media platforms. The coalition of attorneys general highlighted in their letter that just 12 accounts are responsible for 65% of the public anti-vaccine content on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

They also said Facebook has failed to consistently apply misinformation labels and popups on Facebook pages and groups that discuss vaccines of COVID-19 and has allowed anti-vaxxers to skirt its policy of removing misinformation that health experts have debunked, "by failing to prevent them from using video and streaming tools like Facebook Live and sites like Bitchute, Rumble, and Brighteon to evade detection.

A February poll by Pew found that 30% of Americans said they wouldn’t get a COVID-19 vaccine. Majorities cited concerns about side effects (72%), a sense that vaccines were developed and tested too quickly (67%), and a desire to know more about how well they work (61%) as major reasons why they did not intend to get vaccinated.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, during a White House briefing Wednesday said new research suggests that COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing COVID-19 in the real world.

"Right now, as the weeks go by, we see more and more that not only are these vaccines efficacious but, in the community, they are extremely effective in preventing infection with SARS-CoV-2," said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

At least 543,849 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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Twelve attorneys general are calling on Facebook and Twitter to take additional steps in halting the spread of misinformation on coronavirus vaccines, "to prevent needless infection and death and to hasten our road to recovery...
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Wednesday, 24 March 2021 01:22 PM
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