Facebook and Twitter must do more to stop anti-vaxxers, US states say

Platform Industry: Facebook Twitter

Attorneys general for 12 US states have accused Facebook and Twitter of doing too little to stop people from using their platforms to spread false information that coronavirus vaccines are unsafe.

In a letter to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey, the Democratic attorneys general said “anti-vaxxers” lacking medical expertise and often motivated by financial gain have used the platforms to downplay the danger of COVID-19 and exaggerate the risks of vaccination.

They called on both companies to enforce their own community guidelines by removing or flagging vaccine misinformation.

The letter said anti-vaxxers control 65% of public anti-vaccine content on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and have more than 59 million followers on those platforms and YouTube.

It also said some misinformation targets Blacks and other communities of colour where vaccination rates are lagging.

“Given anti-vaxxers’ reliance on your platforms, you are uniquely positioned to prevent the spread of misinformation about coronavirus vaccines that poses a direct threat to the health and safety of millions of Americans in our states and that will prolong our road to recovery,” the letter said.

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Facebook spokeswoman Dani Lever said the company has removed millions of pieces of COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation, and tries to combat “vaccine hesitancy” by regularly directing users to reliable information from health authorities.

Twitter said it has removed more than 22,400 tweets in connection with its policy toward COVID-19 posts, and prioritizes removing content that could cause “real-world” harm.

Wednesday’s letter was signed by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia.

Zuckerberg, Dorsey and Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google parent Alphabet, are scheduled to testify on Thursday before two House of Representatives subcommittees about combating online disinformation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the health of more than 124 million people worldwide, and is thought to be responsible for more than 2.7 million deaths.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Translation from English to a growing list of other languages via Google Cloud Translation. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York. Editing by Bill Berkrot.

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