The Center for Countering Digital Hate recently shared research suggesting that just 12 people are responsible for many of the false claims about covid vaccines that are posted on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The report, titled The Disinformation Dozen, details how these 12 people produced 65% of all anti-vaccine narratives—more than 812,000 posts—on various social media channels. These posters were selected based on three criteria: a large number of followers, high volume of anti-vaccine content, and rapid growth on their social media account in the last two months. Some of them had multiple accounts focused on “natural health” and sold books and other products based on this misinformation.
Although a little more than half of the US population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, these 12 social media users are still influencing many hold-outs. In fact, Vaccine Confidence Project’s analysis in the report shows that even a little bit of misinformation online has reduced the number of people willing to receive the vaccine by up to 8.8 percent. Even though all 12 people have repeatedly posted misinformation over the years, only 3 of the 12 have been banned from one platform and 9 of the 12 remain on all three social media platforms.
Using the social listening tool Bandwidth to collect information, the center found that up to 17% of more than 120,000 anti-vaccine tweets in the last two months feature the Disinformation Dozen. One of the 12 focuses their account on spreading vaccine hesitancy among African Americans and is known for the false claim that covid vaccines lead to infertility in women. Another of the 12 has gained followers through a connection to a famous political family.
Based in DC and London, the Center for Countering Digital Hate works to disrupt the perpetrators, systems, and culture of online misinformation movements through programs like Don’t Spread the Virus and Don’t Feed the Trolls. In the past, the group has successfully forced social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to remove dangerous posts from their platforms. “COVID generated a lot of anxiety and conspiracies and misinformation thrive where there is anxiety,” founder and CEO Imran Ahmed said in a recent interview with NPR.