As the troubled social media platform Twitter rolled out a paid verification system and laid off thousands of content moderators, health misinformation accounts on the social network began pushing their messages to a wider audience than ever.
Under Elon Musk’s new direction for Twitter, several anti-vaccine accounts with tens of thousands of followers are now verified by paying $7.99 a month for Twitter Blue.
Social media sites have long struggled with misleading information and content moderation.
“There’s always been misinformation on the platforms,” said Sarah Barry, a vaccine advocate. Social media companies “only respond when something gets reported on, but they’re not actually proactively watching these groups”, she said.
Before the change in leadership, Twitter was working to remove some accounts that spread anti-vaccine disinformation.But “now it looks like Twitter’s giving these accounts some legitimacy”, said Peter Hotez, a vaccine scientist and dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
“It looks like now they’re going to move in the wrong direction, and actually help promote groups that are touting anti-vaccine, anti-science disinformation.”