A group of 12 state attorneys general sent a letter to Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday urging them to more aggressively enforce platform policies against coronavirus vaccine misinformation.
Led by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D), the group argues that content on the social media sites are increasing vaccine hesitancy, which will “slow economic recovery and, more importantly, ultimately cause even more unnecessary deaths.”
The letter points to a report released by the Center for Countering Digital Hate Wednesday that claims that anti-vaccine accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube have more than 59 million followers.
The study also found that the personal accounts and associated organizations of 12 prominent figures account for upward of 60 percent of anti-vaccine content on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.
“Social media is enabling anti-vaxxers to recruit millions of Americans and indoctrinate them with fear and doubt,” Imran Ahmed, CEO of the center, said in a statement on the report’s release. “If Big Tech companies don’t act now, the pandemic will be prolonged, and more lives will be lost.”
Facebook spokesperson Kevin McAlister told The Hill that the platform has already updated its coronavirus vaccine misinformation policies and taken action against “some of the groups in this report.”
“Since research shows that the best way to combat vaccine hesitancy is to connect people to reliable information from health experts, we’ve also connected over 2 billion people to resources from health authorities, including through our COVID-19 Information Center,” he added.
Facebook in December said it would begin taking down posts with false claims about the “safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects” of coronavirus vaccines.
A spokesperson for Twitter also highlighted the platform’s previous efforts on coronavirus misinformation removals when asked about the letter and study.
“Making certain that reliable, authoritative health information is easily accessible on Twitter has been a priority long before we were in the midst of a global pandemic,” they told The Hill. “We’ve removed more than 22,400 Tweets and challenged 11.7 million accounts worldwide, in line with our COVID-19 misleading information policy.”
Twitter earlier this month rolled out a policy for labeling vaccine misinformation posts and implemented a strike system for broader coronavirus misinformation that could see accounts suspended or removed for repeated violations.
Despite those efforts from the platforms, some anti-coronavirus vaccine content remains on the platforms. Those failures will likely be scrutinized in a congressional hearing on Thursday where the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google will testify on misinformation.
[email protected] (Chris Mills Rodrigo)