Luján, Klobuchar Urge Tech CEOs to Take Action Against “Disinformation Dozen,” Combat Coronavirus Vaccine Disinformation

In letter, Senators call on Twitter and Facebook CEOs to “remove the accounts that have been identified by experts as responsible for producing the majority of this disinformation on social media platforms”

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg highlighting a new report issued by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which found that approximately 65 percent of anti-vaccine content on Facebook and Twitter can be attributed to the “Disinformation Dozen” – 12 individuals who play leading roles in spreading digital disinformation about coronavirus vaccines. In light of these findings, Luján and Klobuchar are calling on Dorsey and Zuckerberg to remove these individuals from their social media platforms.

The senators wrote: “For too long, social media platforms have failed to adequately protect Americans by not taking sufficient action to prevent the spread of vaccine disinformation online. An earlier report found that during the coronavirus pandemic, social media platforms failed to act on 95 percent of such disinformation reported to them.  Despite your policies intended to prevent vaccine disinformation, many of these accounts continue to post content that reach millions of users, repeatedly violating your policies with impunity.”

Last week, Senator Luján led a hearing of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband examining vaccine disinformation. Witnesses, including New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins, testified about how trusted sources like local news outlets have been crucial to building trust in the COVID-19 vaccine and combatting online disinformation.

Full text of Luján and Klobuchar’s letter can be found HERE and below:

Dear Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Zuckerberg:

We write to express our concern about the public health ramifications of online coronavirus vaccine disinformation and to urge you to remove the accounts that have been identified by experts as responsible for producing the majority of this disinformation on social media platforms.

A recent report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) identified a dozen specific content producers as the original sources of an estimated 65 percent of coronavirus disinformation online. Websites and accounts maintained by these content producers host a high volume of content that contains vaccine disinformation, which is ultimately posted and shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Quite troublingly, some of this content targets Black and Latino communities with tailored anti-vaccine messages. 

For too long, social media platforms have failed to adequately protect Americans by not taking sufficient action to prevent the spread of vaccine disinformation online. An earlier report found that during the coronavirus pandemic, social media platforms failed to act on 95 percent of such disinformation reported to them. Despite your policies intended to prevent vaccine disinformation, many of these accounts continue to post content that reach millions of users, repeatedly violating your policies with impunity.  

Most Americans want to get vaccinated. Across all ages, ethnicities, and races. No matter where they live. However, vaccine hesitancy remains a large threat to public health. A recent poll found that nearly 1 in 4 Americans said they will not get the coronavirus vaccine.  

We must urgently work to ensure Americans receive accurate and reliable information about coronavirus vaccines. A crucial step to increase vaccine confidence is to address primary spreaders of this vaccine disinformation, including the twelve accounts — referred to as the “Disinformation Dozen” and are responsible for a majority of disinformation — in a swift and decisive manner. 

  1. Are your platforms aware of these twelve sources that appear to be repeatedly spreading false or misleading information about the coronavirus vaccine efficacy?
  2. What are your specific standards for removing accounts that repeatedly violate your policies on vaccine misinformation? Please address specifically whether the content shared on each of those twelve accounts violate those standards.
  3. Who at your company is responsible for (a) setting vaccine disinformation policies and (b) enforcing those policies? Please provide specific name(s).
  4. How are you ensuring your content moderation policies are effective for rural, minority, and non-English communities? Please provide proof of investment in these programs in terms of resource allocation, specific data on campaign efficacy, and number of full & contract level employees allocated exclusively to those efforts.

As we continue to distribute and administer vaccines across the country, your platforms must step up and take action against people that are spreading content that can harm the health of Americans. Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to your response, which we would appreciate receiving by April 29, 2021.

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