In March 2021 the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) published a report that identified “leading online anti-vaxxers”. The report revealed analysis of social media content, tracing up to 65% of anti-vaccine content back to a group of key figures: the Disinformation Dozen. Their findings emphasised the power of social media in causing confusion but also how significant noise can be made by a malignant minority.
The CCDH and Anti-Vax Watch
The CCDH is a non-profit in the UK and US. It “disrupts the spread of digital hate and misinformation”. It focuses on social media hate as well as mis/disinformation. Anti-Vax Watch describes itself as an “alliance of concerned individuals”. This alliance focuses on the American public, seeking to “educate” about the “dangers of the anti-vax industry”.
The Disinformation Dozen
The report suggests that almost 2/3 of all anti-vaccine content in circulation on social media comes from a group of 12 users. Analysis from content on social media across just two months “uncovers how a tiny group of determined anti-vaxxers is responsible for a tidal wave of disinformation”.
There is obviously no need for us to offer a platform to this group of users, who are identified in the report. However, the statistics remind us of the significance that one small post or comment can have. The Disinformation Dozen were identified through the following criteria:
- Large numbers of followers
- High volumes of content
- Rapid growth
The statistics in the report are disturbing. 3 out of the 12, or 1 in 4, are physicians. 65% of content on Facebook and Twitter between February and March 2021 came from the whole group. The report suggests that these are the consequences of a “series of failures from social media platforms”.
So where can social media users find useful information in a tidal wave of misinformation? The CCDH describes an “all-hands-on-deck moment”. This was over a year ago. Since then, circulating myths have got more compelling, and in some cases have been supported by research with low credibility.
We did a quick search of some of the top COVID-19 vaccine myths, and it was fairly easy to find information that disproved them. Some useful sources included:
- Hopkins medicine
- WHO Science in 5, ep. 41
- Vaccinate Your Family FAQs
- GAVI vaccines are safe
- CDC Facts
- NHS side effects and safety
- NIH study fertility
- Fact Check microchip
- WEF 6 myths
However, not everyone is capable of, or willing to, perform these simple searches to identify the truth behind the myth. With the infectious nature of an emotive or eye-catching social media post, lengthy studies or official sources face stiff competition. Some of the myths that we identified are featured in the infographic at the top of this page. This is only a snapshot of the misinformation available online, and with accelerated efforts from the anti-vaxx industry it is no wonder that vaccine hesitancy is such a problem.
If you are interested in learning more about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, click here to join us at the World Vaccine Congress in Europe 2022.