On Monday, the Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin collapsed from cardiac arrest, and the antivaxxers immediately -- and without any evidence -- blamed vaccines. At The Atlantic, Caroline Mimbs Nyce interviews Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate:
Caroline Mimbs Nyce: Can you talk to me a little bit about what you saw after the Hamlin collapse—what the volume of the anti-vax disinformation looked like online?
Imran Ahmed: First of all, it’s worth saying that anti-vaxxers have proven extremely opportunistic—parasites, really, who feed on the algorithmic salience of breaking news and current events to amplify their own narrative.
We have seen consistently that every time a high-profile death has occurred, very quickly, anti-vaxxers have jumped on and said, Yes, that happened because of the vaccine, and here’s the information about it. Right now, they’re trying to promote the anti-vax documentary Died Suddenly.
This is about gaming social-media platforms. They don’t actually care about the narrative content of the idea that a 24-year-old footballer who was vaccinated some time ago suddenly collapsed on the pitch. What they care about is the mathematical amplification that is theirs to enjoy, despite the fact they promote false information all the time, breaking the rules of the platforms. Platforms do not allow the deliberate spread of deadly disinformation. Nevertheless, these people are allowed to continue.