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Australian politician blames white supremacists for spreading online vaccine misinformation

Christina Yep holds daughter Ariel Yep, 5, as she receives a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
Associated Press-Noah Berger

An Australian politician is blaming the spread of online COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on white supremacists based in the United States, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported on Thursday.

“There’s been some misinformation provided to Aboriginal people from people who do not have their best interests at heart,” Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said during a press conference on Thursday.

McGowan, who alleged that these groups, among others, were targeting Aboriginals because “they want to harm” them, added that he urges Australians “to listen to the experts, who say the vaccine is safe and effective and it will save their lives.”

Wanita Bartholomeusz, an Aboriginal strategic adviser for the Western Australia Police Force, indicated that some of the misinformation was being circulated on Facebook, according to the ABC.

“Just now we heard from one Aboriginal person who said white supremacist groups are sending information to Aboriginal people that they shouldn’t get vaccinated,” McGowan said on Thursday.

The FBI declined to comment and referred The Hill to Australian authorities. The Hill has reached out to McGowan’s office for comment. 

Earlier this summer, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on coronavirus misinformation, which he called “an urgent threat to public health.”

The advisory called for social media and tech companies to take steps toward combating misinformation circulating on their sites, including avoiding its amplification and changing algorithms.

Facebook has particularly been under scrutiny for a myriad of internal issues first documented by a series in The Wall Street Journal, which obtained leaked documents from former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen. Among the issues the series raised is how Facebook handled anti-vaccine rhetoric and the effects of Instagram on younger users.

The Hill has reached out to the CIA and Facebook parent company Meta for comment.

— Updated Dec. 4 at 11:06 p.m.

Tags Australia Australia coronavirus misinformation coronavirus pandemic COVID-19 COVID-19 misinformation COVID-19 pandemic COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and hesitancy Facebook META misinformation Vivek Murthy
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