Democrats push Twitter, Facebook to remove vaccine ‘disinformation dozen’

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Twitter and Facebook both have a legacy form of content moderation.

Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Ben Ray Luján (N.M.) are asking Facebook and Twitter to take action against a dozen accounts identified in a recent report as spreading the majority of anti-vaccine content on their platforms. 

Klobuchar and Luján wrote a letter to the two company CEOs urging them to address the “Disinformation Dozen” named in a recent report published by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH). 

“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,” they wrote, according to a copy of the letter shared with The Hill on Monday. 

“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,” the Democrats added. 

The Democrats asked for responses to questions about vaccine disinformation policies, as well as specifically about the 12 identified accounts, by April 29. 

The CCDH report found that the 12 accounts were responsible for up to 65 percent of anti-vaccine content, according to an analysis of more than 812,000 posts from Facebook and Twitter between Feb. 1 and March 16. 

The report stated that “despite repeatedly violating” the social media platforms’ terms of service agreements, nine of the 12 remain on Twitter, Facebook and Facebook’s subsidiary Instagram. 

A Facebook company spokesperson defended the company’s handling of anti-vaccination content, noting that it has taken action against “some” of the groups mentioned in the CCDH report. 

“Working with leading health organizations, we’ve updated our policies to take action against accounts that break our COVID-19 and vaccine rules — including by reducing their distribution or removing them from our platform — and have already taken action against some of the groups in this report,” the spokesperson said in a statement. 

The spokesperson also highlighted Facebook’s COVID-19 Information center for connecting “over 2 billion people” to resources from health authorities as a way to combat vaccine hesitancy. 

Facebook in February updated its policy to state that it will remove posts that spread false information about COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines in general, expanding on the policy the platform put in place in December to remove misinformation about coronavirus vaccines. 

A Twitter spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill that the company has received the letter and intends to respond.

Twitter last month said it would label posts that contain misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, and would implement a strike system for its broader policy on coronavirus vaccine misinformation. The strike system lays out a process where one violation leads to accounts being locked and five or more will trigger permanent suspensions. 

–Updated at 2:34 p.m.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Ben Ray Lujan center for countering digital hate Center for Countering Digital Hate COVID-19 misinformation Facebook Instagram misinformation Twitter Vaccine hesitancy vaccine misinformation

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