Disinformation Dozen: Responsible For Most COVID19 Disinformation Online Leading To Thousands Of Deaths

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Disinformation Dozen: Responsible For Most COVID19 Disinformation Online Leading To Thousands Of Deaths

 

The vast majority of COVID19 anti-vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories originated from just 12 people dubbed the "disinformation dozen", according to a report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH). 

The COVID19 misinformation network was used to target Black USians, exploiting higher rates of vaccine hesitancy in that community to spread conspiracies and lies about the safety of Covid vaccines. The virus has had a particularly devastating impact on Black, Latino, and Native American communities in the United States, all of whom are suffering severe illness and death from COVID-19 at rates far greater than the general population. At least 500,000 people have died across the US where misinformation has hindered vaccine efforts.

Who are the Disinformation Dozen?

The Disinformation Dozen are twelve anti-vaxxers who play leading roles in spreading digital misinformation about Covid vaccines. The "disinformation dozen" network has a combined following of 59 million people across multiple social media platforms. They as listed as follows:

 

  1. Joseph Mercola 
  2. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
  3. Ty and Charlene Bollinger 
  4. Sherri Tenpenny 
  5. Rizza Islam 
  6. Rashid Buttar 
  7. Erin Elizabeth 
  8. Sayer Ji 
  9. Kelly Brogan 
  10. Christiane Northrup 
  11. Ben Tapper 
  12. Kevin Jenkins 

 

The disinformation dozen is made up of a US based bodybuilder, a wellness blogger, and a religious zealot, it most notably, includes the nephew of former President John F Kennedy. Robert F Kennedy Jr disinformation agent spreading anti-vaccine propaganda. His account was part removed by Instagram but he remains active on Facebook and Twitter. Authorities have yet to charge him with anything or pressure him to stop, despite his actions being widely publicized and known. Other members of the disinformation dozen Sherri Tenpenny, Rizza Islam, Sayer Ji, and Kelly Brogan, and have had one of their social media accounts removed or partially removed according to the report. Authorities have also not approached these individuals or pressured them to cease their actions.

The report selected them due to their large numbers of followers and high volumes of anti-vaccine content. An analysis of over 120,000 anti-vaccine tweets collected in the last two months shows that up to 17 percent feature the Disinformation Dozen. Of 812,000 anti-vaccine posts shared on Facebook and Twitter between February 1 and March 16, 2021, 65 percent could be attributed to the "disinformation dozen". Analysis of anti-vaccine content posted to Facebook over 689,000 times in the last two months shows that up to 73 percent of that content originates with members of the Disinformation Dozen.

In addition to deplatforming the personal accounts of the Disinformation Dozen, the report also calls for deplatforming of the real-world networks they use to spread their anti-vaccine propaganda. These include:

1. Children’s Health Defense (Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.) 2. Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN) (Del Bigtree) 

3. National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) (Barbara Loe Fisher, Joseph Mercola) 

4. Organic Consumers Association (OCA) (Joseph Mercola) 

5. Millions Against Medical Mandates

 

Social Media

Despite repeatedly violating Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter's terms of service agreements, nine of the Disinformation Dozen remain on all three platforms, while just three have been completely removed from at least one platform. On Facebook alone, the disinformation dozen are responsible for 73% of all anti-vaccine content and 95% of the Covid misinformation reported on social media has not been removed.

According to CCDH’s CEO, Imran Ahmed, “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... All have been particularly ineffective at removing harmful and dangerous misinformation about coronavirus vaccines.” “Updated policies and statements hold little value unless they are strongly and consistently enforced... 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.”

The CCDH is calling on Facebook and Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to completely deplatform the disinformation dozen who are instrumental in inducing vaccine hesitancy at a crucial time. While authorties, most recently US President Joe Biden, have called out social media platforms like Facebook for not curbing disinformation, little to nothing has been done to prosecute or charge people for spreading harmful misinformation, especially the "disinformation dozen". 

The CCDH report calls on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube to de-platform every member of the disinformation dozen. It claims, "The most effective and efficient way to stop the dissemination of harmful information is to de-platform the most highly visible repeat offenders, who we term the disinformation dozen,...This should also include the organizations these individuals control or fund, as well as any backup accounts they have established to evade removal." There are yet no calls for authorities to intervene despite COVID19 misinformation costing thousands if not millions of lives worldwide.

 

Appendix: The Disinformation Dozen

"The following profiles of the Disinformation Dozen collate their current access to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; key biographical details; and examples of their content and posts which breach platform standards", CCDH Report. 

 

1. Joseph Mercola 

  • Facebook: Active 
  • Twitter: Active 
  • Instagram: Active 

"Joseph Mercola is a successful anti-vaccine entrepreneur, peddling dietary supplements and false cures as alternatives to vaccines. Mercola’s combined personal social media accounts have around 3.6 million followers." Mercola is a known scam artist and once sold tanning beds which he claimed helped "reverse your wrinkles" and "slash your risk of cancer." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also wrote to him three times between 2005 and 2011 accusing him of violating federal laws. He has faced no serious backlash from US authorities and lives an affluent lifestyle. 

Example Violations

 

2. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

  • Facebook: Active 
  • Twitter: Active
  •  Instagram: Part Removed 

"Kennedy is a long-standing anti-vaxxer, and his Children’s Health Defense (CHD) hosts a range of anti-vaccine articles. Kennedy’s account was banned from Instagram on 8 February, yet his Facebook Page remains active, as does the CHD’s Instagram page. Kennedy and Children’s Health Defense released a film in mid-March targeting members of the Black and Latino communities with tailored anti-vaccine messages. Facebook and Twitter continue to allow him a platform to promote these false claims.", CCDH Report. 

Example Violations 

"Robert F. Kennedy Jr. shared this post which contains misinformation about Covid vaccines posing a threat to pregnant women." 



"A misleading claim that Hank Aaron’s death was “part of a wave of suspicious deaths” remains available with a “missing context” label, despite the Medical Examiner confirming no association."

 "Here and here, Kennedy promotes misinformation linking Covid vaccines to deaths."

 

3. Ty & Charlene Bollinger

  • Facebook: Active
  • Twitter: Active
  • Instagram: Active

"Ty and Charlene Bollinger are anti-vax entrepreneurs who run a network of accounts that market books and DVDs about vaccines, cancer and COVID-19. In 2020 they launched the United Medical Freedom Super PAC ahead of last year’s United States elections. The Bollingers have promoted the conspiracy theory that Bill Gates plans to inject everyone with microchips as part of a vaccination program."

Example Violations




"Promoting a debunked story which claims that the Covid vaccine is responsible for several deaths in Senegal."

"The Bollingers have also posted content that violates platform standards on election misinformation. This post falsely claims the US Presidential election was “stolen” and promotes the rally the Bollingers spoke at on 6 January."

4. Sherri Tenpenny

  • Facebook: Part Removed
  • Twitter: suspended
  • Instagram: Active

"Sherri Tenpenny is an osteopath physician who spreads anti-vaccine sentiment and false claims about the safety and efficacy of masks via her social media channels. While her Facebook account has been removed, her Twitter and Instagram are still intact."

Example Violations

"Facebook’s policies state that false claims about the safety and efficacy of masks are prohibited. Tenpenny, who regularly advocates against mask-wearing, is clearly in violation of that policy here."

"On 23 June 2020 Sherri Tenpenny tweeted that the longer you wear a mask, the more unhealthy you get. Tenpenny alleged that masks suppress your immune system."


"Tenpenny also posts, “Stop getting tested. If you are getting tested you are part of the problem.” This clearly violates Facebook’s policy against claims that can discourage someone from getting a government-approved COVID-19 test."

5. Rizza Islam

  • Facebook: Removed
  • Twitter: Active
  • Instagram: Active

"Rizza Islam’s anti-vaccine posts aim to spread vaccine hesitancy amongst African Americans. While Facebook removed Rizza Islam’s Facebook Page in February, he continues to post anti-vaccine messages from his Instagram and Twitter accounts. Example Violations Rizza Islam promoted the false conspiracy theory that COVID vaccines make women infertile in a tweet last June."

Example Violations
"Rizza Islam promoted the false conspiracy theory that COVID vaccines make women infertile in a tweet last June."

"Rizza Islam recently tweeted that he recovered from COVID in 48 hours by following a special diet."



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1 comment

  • Donna Furnival

    Has anybody informed you yet that the spike-protein, graphene oxide, paramagnetic nanoparticle injection is experimental?

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