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Sunday, February 14, 2021

Antivaxxers and Social Media

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Imran Ahmed, CEO of the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) said the takedown was overdue and showed an inadequate approach to tackling vaccine misinformation.

Ahmed said Facebook is failing to join the dots and take down the networks that figures like Kennedy operate. Although Kennedy's personal Instagram account is gone, his Facebook profile remains untouched, with upwards of 306,000 followers at time of writing. Simultaneously, his organisation, the Children's Health Defense, is still active on Instagram where it has more than 177,000 followers.

"Facebook must now remove all accounts linked to Kennedy [...] as well as those of the other superspreaders of dangerous anti-vaccine misinformation," said Ahmed.

He added: "One in every 30 followers of anti-vaxx accounts across social media are following RFK Jr and his organisations, so his comprehensive deplatforming would represent a significant victory in the fight against harmful misinformation."

Many of the posts on the Children's Health Defense come with warning labels applied by Instagram. One example, an image of COVID-19 vaccine vials which carried the text: "California man dies several hours after receiving COVID vaccine, cause of death unclear," had been tagged with a label saying "missing context: Independent fact-checkers say information in this post could mislead people."

Ahmed told Insider in December he believes the most effective way for Facebook to take action against vaccine misinformation is by comprehensively deplatforming key figures in the anti-vaxx community, such as Kennedy.