WHY THAT MATTERS IN BRIEF
Disinformation in our connected digital world is its own pandemic, and it only takes a few people to sway global opinion.
During my keynotes and sessions I often talk about the fact that technology is helping amplify the power of the individual – which both is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s also the core message that forms the lynchpin of XPotential University where we show students how they can change the world and impact the lives of billions of people on the planet with little more than a connected device, an internet connection, and an idea.
Now, as if to ram that message home, a report cited by the White House by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) into the origin and spread of COVID-19 disinformation during the global pandemic has shown that the vast majority of Covid-19 anti-vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories originated from just 12 people.
In short, all it took to influence the opinions of over a billion people during one of the world’s darkest periods was 12 or so people, some connected devices, and an internet connection, because in this case technology and our increasingly connected society helped amplify their voices manyfold.
Now ponder the gravity of this as DeepFakes and Synthetic Content help individuals generate and spread realistic looking content further and faster than ever before …
Learn about the Future of Synthetic Media, by Matthew Griffin
CCDH, which is a UK-US non-profit and non-governmental organization, found in March that these 12 online personalities they dubbed the “disinformation dozen” have a combined following of 59 million people across multiple social media platforms, with Facebook having the largest impact. CCDH analyzed 812,000 Facebook posts and tweets and found 65% came from the disinformation dozen. Vivek Murthy, US surgeon general, and Joe Biden focused on misinformation around vaccines this week as a driving force of the virus spreading.
On Facebook alone, the dozen are responsible for 73% of all anti-vaccine content, though the vaccines have been deemed safe and effective by the US government and its regulatory agencies. And 95% of the Covid misinformation reported on these platforms were not removed.
Among the dozen are physicians that have embraced pseudoscience, a bodybuilder, a wellness blogger, a religious zealot, and, most notably Robert F Kennedy Jr, the nephew of John F Kennedy who has also linked vaccines to autism and 5G broadband cellular networks to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kennedy was since removed from Instagram, which Facebook owns, but not from Facebook itself.
“Facebook, Google and Twitter have put policies into place to prevent the spread of vaccine misinformation; yet to date, all have failed to satisfactorily enforce those policies,” wrote CCDH’s CEO, Imran Ahmed, in the report. “All have been particularly ineffective at removing harmful and dangerous misinformation about coronavirus vaccines.”
Although platforms have since taken measures to remove many posts and even remove three of the 12 from one platform, the CCDH is calling on Facebook and Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to completely deplatform the disinformation dozen they believe are dangerous and instrumental in creating vaccine hesitancy at a crucial moment in the pandemic.
“Updated policies and statements hold little value unless they are strongly and consistently enforced,” the report said. “With the vast majority of harmful content being spread by a select number of accounts, removing those few most dangerous individuals and groups can significantly reduce the amount of disinformation being spread across platforms.”