In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth. Measles can kill.
Nicole Baldwin, a pediatrician working in suburban Cincinnati, posted a TIkTok video encouraging vaccination on Twitter Saturday evening [Jan 11].
It took less than 24 hours for the video to go viral on both TikTok, a video sharing app, and Twitter – and just another 48 hours before Baldwin was facing backlash from hundreds of thousands of people associated with the anti-vaccine movement.
The video shows Baldwin dancing to "Cupid Shuffle" and pointing to diseases that vaccines prevent. It ends with her pointing to the words "Vaccines don't cause autism."
Commenters across Baldwin’s social media platforms insulted her, referred to vaccines as “poison” and suggested Baldwin was being paid to promote vaccination. One commenter wrote, “Dead doctors don’t lie.” People then flocked to her Yelp and Google Review pages, leaving one-star reviews in an attempt to sabotage Baldwin’s ratings.
By Tuesday, people started calling Baldwin’s practice and harassing the staff. When a woman called on Wednesday threatening to “shut the practice down,” the office had to call the police. Deerfield Township police, where Baldwin has a satellite office, said they're investigating.
Baldwin reached out to Todd Wolynn, a colleague she had met a couple of months earlier at an event in Columbus and CEO of a pediatric practice in Pittsburgh. Wolynn had dealt with his own intense online backlash from the anti-vaccine movement two years prior and started the organization Shots Heard Round the World as a result.