Just 12 people are responsible for the majority of COVID-19 conspiracy theories online, study finds. JFK’s anti-vaxxer nephew is one of the ‘disinformation dozen.’

Stock photo of disinformation, left. Robert F. Kennedy Jr, a prominent anti-vaxxer, is pictured right.
The disinformation dozen, which includes Robert F. Kennedy Jr, are twelve anti-vaxxers who play leading roles in spreading digital misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

  • 12 people are responsible for the majority of COVID-19 disinformation shared online, according to a new study.
  • The CCDH found that 65% of anti-vaccine posts on Facebook and Twitter could be attributed to the “disinformation dozen.”
  • The disinformation dozen includes a bodybuilder, a wellness blogger, and JFK’s nephew.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The majority of COVID-19 disinformation shared online comes from just 12 people, according to a new report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).

The CCDH analyzed 812,000 anti-vaccine posts shared on Facebook and Twitter between February 1 and March 16, 2021. It found that 65 percent of this content could be attributed to what is being dubbed the “disinformation dozen.”

On Facebook alone, the CCDH found that those 12 people were responsible for 73 percent of the anti-vaccine content on the platform.

Read more: Anti-maskers are using fake medical cards to avoid scrutiny for not wearing coverings in public

The disinformation dozen is made up of a bodybuilder, a wellness blogger, and a religious zealot, The Guardian reported.

Also, most notably, it includes the nephew of former President John F Kennedy. Robert F Kennedy Jr is a prominent anti-vaxxer who has proliferated disinformation connecting vaccines to autism and the COVID-19 shots to 5G phone technology.

His account was part removed by Instagram, the CCDH said, but he remains active on Facebook and Twitter.

Fewer than half of the members of the disinformation dozen – Kennedy, Sherri Tenpenny, Rizza Islam, Sayer Ji, and Kelly Brogan – have had one of their social media accounts removed or partially removed, the study said.

The CCDH is now calling on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube to de-platform every member of the disinformation dozen with haste.

“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,” the study said. “This should also include the organizations these individuals control or fund, as well as any backup accounts they have established to evade removal.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Fauci urges anti-vaxxers to ‘realize that the common enemy is the virus’

Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci says COVID-19 death rates are high largely due to unvaccinated people.
  • In a “Meet the Press” interview that aired Sunday, Fauci said these deaths are “avoidable and preventable.”
  • He also urged anti-vaxxers to realize that the “formidable enemy” is the coronavirus.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As the Delta variant continues nationwide, Dr. Anthony Fauci is urging Americans – and anti-vaxxers in particular – to protect themselves against the coronavirus.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in an interview that aired Sunday, Fauci called the coronavirus pandemic a “formidable enemy” that’s “tragically really disrupted our planet now for about a year and a half.”

He alluded to anti-vaxxers who have been at best hesitant to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“Whatever the reasons,” he said, “some of them are ideological, some of them are just fundamentally anti-vax or anti-science or what have you. But, you know, we just need to put that aside now. We’re dealing with a historic situation with this pandemic. And we do have the tools to counter it. So for goodness’ sakes, put aside all of those differences and realize that the common enemy is the virus.”

The variant has been detected in all 50 states, and health officials all over – including Fauci and others across city, state, and federal levels – continue to urge Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Five states in particular – Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, Nevada, and Utah – are susceptible to the Delta variant.

More than 605,000 people have died from the coronavirus since its inception in the United States, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. About 47% of the total US population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, JHU data says.

President Joe Biden said he hoped at least 70% of all adults in the country would receive at least one dose by the Fourth of July holiday this year. Twenty states have already hit the 70% partial vaccination rate among their adult populations. But nationwide, the White House conceded Biden’s goal would likely fall short.

In the same interview, Fauci said deaths from the coronavirus are at this point “avoidable and preventable.”

“The overwhelming proportion of people who get into trouble are the unvaccinated,” Fauci said. “Which is the reason why we say this is really entirely avoidable and preventable.”

Nearly all of the people who’ve died from COVID-19 in recent months were unvaccinated, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Fauci says the ‘disparity in the willingness to be vaccinated’ could lead to Delta variant spikes

Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci.

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a “Meet the Press” interview that anti-vaxxers might bring up Delta variant rates regionally.
  • The Delta variant has been detected in all 50 states.
  • Health officials continue to urge Americans to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

People who don’t get vaccinated against the coronavirus are increasing the likelihood of Delta variant spikes across the country, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” that aired Sunday, Fauci, the nation’s leading coronavirus expert, said the Delta variant could spike in different regions, even as overall vaccination rates go up and new COVID-19 cases go down.

There’s a “disparity in the willingness to be vaccinated,” Fauci said. “So there are some states where the level of vaccination of individuals is 35% or less. Under those circumstances, you might expect to see spikes in certain regions, in certain states, cities, or counties.”

“And in some places, some states, some cities, some areas where the level of vaccination is low and the level of virus dissemination is high – that’s where you’re going to see the spikes,” he said.

Already, the variant has been detected in all 50 states, and health officials all over continue to urge Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Five states in particular – Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, Nevada, and Utah – have been hardest hit by the Delta variant.

In some states, specific counties are seeing drastically higher rates of confirmed coronavirus cases. Health officials there attribute the spike to the Delta variant.

Colorado, for example, is overall seeing a decrease in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases. But regionally, the Delta variant is causing spikes. Mesa County in Colorado has had a 34% increase in the number of positive coronavirus cases within the last two weeks, according to a COVID-19 tracker from The New York Times.

The Delta variant “is more effective and efficient in its ability to transmit from person to person,” Fauci said Sunday. “It’s clear that it appears to be more lethal in the sense of more serious – allow you to get more serious disease leading to hospitalization, and in some cases leading to deaths.”

More than 605,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the United States, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. About 47% of the total US population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, JHU data say.

“I don’t think you’re going to be seeing anything nationwide,” Fauci said of Delta variant spikes. “Because fortunately, we have a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated. So it’s going to be regional. And that’s the thing that will be confusing when people look at what we do. We’re going to see, and I’ve said, almost two types of America.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Anti-vax campaigners who have been radicalised on social media pose a growing threat, experts say

A protester holds a placard expressing her opinion during an anti-lockdown protest. Thousands of people marched through Central London in a protest against health passports, protective masks, Covid-19 vaccines and lockdown restrictions.
A protester holds a placard expressing her opinion during an anti-lockdown protest. Thousands of people marched through Central London in a protest against health passports, protective masks, Covid-19 vaccines and lockdown restrictions.

  • Anti-lockdown groups in the UK are becoming increasingly entangled with far-right groups on social media, experts said.
  • Anti-vax groups are using the same fringe social media platforms as many prominent far-right extremists.
  • Two men were charged after a BBC journalist was chased through the street by anti-lockdown demonstrators in distressing scenes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination groups are becoming increasingly entangled with networks of far-right extremists who share threatening messages about journalists on fringe social media networks such as Telegram, experts have warned.

A second man was charged this week in the UK after a BBC journalist was chased through the street by demonstrators protesting against lockdown measures.

Footage of the incident was uploaded by an anti-lockdown group called ResistanceGB to YouTube – where it has more than 28,000 followers – under the title “Top BBC Stooge Chased Out Of Anti-lockdown Protest Over BBC Lies.”

As a result, The BBC was forced to tighten its security procedures after Fran Unsworth, the director of news and current affairs at the national broadcaster, said that the “abuse of journalists is a growing problem,” the Observer reported.

Many prominent figures on the British far-right, including Nick Griffin and Jayda Fransen, subsequently expressed support on social media for the actions of the protestors who pursued Watt through Westminster.

Experts say that while the anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown movement in the UK is not inherently far-right, many of them are increasingly using the same fringe social media platforms such as Telegram, where prominent far-right influencers like Nick Griffin and Jayda Fransen have large followings. Many of those figures frequently talk about opposition to vaccines and lockdowns.

“As anti-vax conspiracy theorists increasingly share online spaces with violent far-right extremists, the chances of radicalization increase also,” said a spokesperson for Tech Against Terrorism, an organization tackling terrorist use on the internet that is supported by the United Nations counter-terrorism committee executive directorate.

“The more these groups share the same spaces, the more likely they’ll be influenced by each others’ ideas.”

After Paul Joseph Watson – a right-wing conspiracy theorist and UK editor of Infowars – shared a link to Watt being chased, comments posted in response seen by Insider included: “Good. Scum. Hope he pissed himself” and “He could and should have been lynched.” The Observer previously reported other comments shared below the video.

Nick Griffin, the former leader of the BNP, referred to the protestors in a tweet as “heroes” and added the hashtag “#onlythingthesef—ers understand.”

Anti-semitic tropes are also being shared in anti-vax groups on social media, experts said.

“When extremists are banned from large platforms, they don’t disappear from the internet; instead they congregate on smaller, alternative platforms that lack either the capacity or willingness to remove their content,” said a Tech Against Terrorism spokesperson.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Anti-vaxxer sheriff’s deputy dies from COVID-19 complications shortly after mocking the vaccine on Facebook

Daniel 'Duke' Trujillo shared anti-vaccination memes
Daniel ‘Duke’ Trujillo, 33, died on Wednesday. He had shared anti-vaccination posts on social media in the weeks prior to his death.

  • Daniel ‘Duke’ Trujillo, 33, died on Wednesday from COVID-19 complications.
  • The Denver Sheriff’s deputy had shared a string of anti-vax posts just weeks before his death, MailOnline reported.
  • “I have an immune system,” read one of his Facebook posts.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Colorado sheriff’s deputy died from COVID-19 complications shortly after sharing a string of anti-vaccination posts on his social media, according to MailOnline.

Daniel ‘Duke’ Trujillo, 33, died on Wednesday with his family by his side, Denver’s Sheriff Department said on Twitter.

Three weeks before his death, Trujillo had updated his Facebook profile picture to include a border that read, “I have an immune system,” the MailOnline said.

“I don’t care if you’ve had your vaccine,” read another profile picture border included on a now-deleted Facebook post from April, the paper reported.

Read more: Experts warn that fake vaccine cards are for sale on the dark web. But we found it was incredibly easy to just print them, obtaining 150 for only $50.

The sheriff’s deputy had also captioned a TikTok post, which he shared on his Facebook profile, with a vaccine-hesitant message.”I’ll get it later on after y’all start growing apendages [sic] out of y’alls foreheads,” he wrote.

Trujillo shared an Instagram post in July 2020 that suggested he refused to wear masks, according to a screenshot shared by MailOnline. “Before you shame me in public for not having a mask, ask yourself one simple question,” the post said. “Will this mask stop an uppercut?”

Denver Sheriff Elisa Diggins announced that Trujillo’s passing would be considered a “line of duty” death on Thursday evening, The Denver Channel reported.

Trujillo is the second Denver Sheriff Department deputy to die of COVID-19 complications this month, the local media outlet said. Deputy James Herrera also died from the coronavirus on May 16.

Both had been eligible for a vaccine since January, Denver Sheriff Department spokeswoman Daria Serna told Canoncitydailtrecord.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Anti-maskers and COVID deniers have been yelling about ‘freedom’ since the pandemic began. Now many of them are standing in the way of America’s actual freedom.

anti mask man cutout protest
A ‘Hazardous Liberty! Defend the Constitution!’ rally to protest the stay-at-home order in Olympia, Washington.

  • Science deniers and anti-maskers have been crying about “freedom” for the length of the pandemic.
  • Now the US has a real chance at freedom through the vaccines.
  • But some of those same science deniers are morphing into anti-vaxxers and stopping America from getting back to normal.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

America’s anti-maskers have become America’s anti-vaxxers.

Their argument against these common-sense precautions is personal freedom. The only problem with this logic, or lack thereof, is that their claims to freedom are causing the rest of us to lose ours.

It would be nice to be able to dine inside with no worry, go to the movies in a packed theater, or enjoy any of the other freedoms we enjoyed before the pandemic. But that will be impossible to do with the threat of COVID – unless we reach a certain threshold of the population who are vaccinated, probably around 80%. Who is preventing us from reaching that threshold? The 1 in 4 Americans who say they’ll refuse to get vaccinated.

Cat scratch fever

You’ve heard GOP Rep. Jim Jordan pounding the table, asking when we’re going to live our lives again. In a recent congressional hearing with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Jordan demanded to know the precise moment the world will be back to normal and harangued the infectious disease specialist about basic safety measures. By undermining Dr. Fauci, Jordan is in turn undermining our efforts to get back to normal. As Dr. Fauci expressed, it’s a paradox that Republicans legislators simply cannot seem to wrap their minds around.

You’ve heard Sen. Ron Johnson talk double-talk on vaccines. He asked “what is the point” of getting vaccinated, undermining our attempts to reach herd immunity. By spewing this inane rhetoric, he’s all but ensuring that some followers of his in Wisconsin remain unvaccinated and get COVID.

Studies show that many vaccine-hesitant folks are in a ‘wait-and-see’ pattern and aren’t completely writing off the vaccine. A positive pronouncement from their trusted elected officials or a celebrity they admire could make a world of difference. But instead of that, we get people like Jordan, Johnson, and faded rockstar Ted Nugent.

I’ll admit, I had a moment of schadenfreude when Nugent got COVID and whined about how bad it was. He said “it was really scary” and that he “didn’t know if [he] was gonna make it.” And, of course, he is right. COVID is scary, and nearly 600,000 of his fellow citizens weren’t as lucky as he and didn’t make it. But he remains a poster child of all “freedom-loving” COVID-deniers: anti-mask, anti-vax and making the country suffer as a result.

Former President Donald Trump, afraid to offend the faux-freedom lovers, got his vaccine in secret and waited two months to reveal it. He clearly knows that the vaccine will protect him and that his words carry a lot of weight with his MAGA disciples, up to 40% of whom don’t want a shot. But instead of shouting about the success of the vaccines and winning over his supporters, Trump doesn’t seem to care if his followers have the same protection that the vaccine provides.

The tone these guys and their brethren have set from the beginning has prolonged the crisis. Fewer masks meant more contamination. If everyone masked, fewer people would have died. And fewer vaccines prolongs the threat of COVID for everyone.

Faux freedom

Even as more and more folks around the world get the vaccine, new COVID variants continue to emerge in unvaccinated communities. The vaccines have stayed ahead of the variants – at least for now. But if we don’t reach herd immunity soon we could find ourselves with a variant that has outsmarted the vaccine, which could lead to another lockdown.

If everyone eligible got the vaccine, we could all get our lives back as soon as Jim Jordan wants. But the “freedom” from the vaccine that the right wing clamors for could allow variants to stick around, mutate and deprive all of us again. So instead, we may have to fight variants, hunt for boosters, and mask endlessly.

In pandemics past, vaccines were the key to how our country returned to normal. There is, after all, a reason no one has contracted polio in the United States since 1979. But that didn’t happen in a vacuum. Public health officials, politicians, celebrities and everyday teenagers all teamed up to make the vaccine accessible, normal, and even “cool.” Everyone got together, and before long, polio epidemics were no more.

Today, that seems all but impossible — not in the era of alt-right cable news and the politicians mugging for that audience. I’m not the first to say it, but instead of science leading us all to health and safety, the faux-freedom lovers are causing the rest of us to lose our freedom.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Biden’s COVID-19 task force chief warns anti-vaxxers are targeting Black people

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Biden's chief medical adviser on the COVID-19 task force
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Biden’s chief medical adviser on the COVID-19 task force

  • The head of Biden’s COVID-19 response team said anti-vaxxers are targeting Black Americans. 
  • Black Americans are receiving fewer vaccines than white Americans, per preliminary data.
  • Conspiracy theorists targeted other communities of color, like Latino and Asian Americans.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The head of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 response team said anti-vaxx campaigners are targeting Black Americans. 

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a Yale University associate professor who serves as the co-chair of Biden’s coronavirus task force, said anti-vaccination campaigners are targeting Black Americans using misinformation, the Financial Times reported. 

The anti-vax movement refers to the uptick in debunked claims about vaccines on social media over the last decade. Anti-vax members have used fake claims that vaccines cause autism and alter DNA to deter people from getting shots. 

Nunez-Smith said anti-vaxxers are tailoring misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines, which have not caused serious side effects in the majority of recipients, to appeal to Black Americans.   

“If you think about what it is to have 400 years in this country [since slaves first arrived in the US] being marginalized and minoritized, you can imagine the distrust you would have in the system,” she told the FT. “There are actors out there trying to take advantage of that with misinformation about the vaccines, especially among some of the communities that have been hardest hit [by the pandemic].”

Nunez-Smith, who also leads Biden’s COVID-19 health equity task force, did not say what actions the president’s team has taken to combat online misinformation.

The anti-vaxx movement’s targeting of Black Americans could signal a trend of conspiracy theorists preying on people of color. Ahead of the presidential election, right-wing disinformation campaigns targeted Latinos using Spanish-language posts on Facebook and WhatsApp groups. Progressive Asian American organizers said they saw similar misinformation campaigns on social media targeting immigrants from Vietnam and Taiwan.

Misinformation could pose significant public health challenges. The vaccine rollout, much like the distribution of COVID-19 cases, appears to favor white Americans over Black and Latino populations. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis found Black and Hispanic people consistently received a smaller share of shots compared to their share of coronavirus cases and deaths.

The racial gap among vaccine recipients could stem from Black Americans’ historic distrust of the US health system. Some Black and Latino communities lack access to vaccine sites, and in those that do, reports of wealthy white people making appointments in underserved areas could be contributing to the race gap. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Facebook cracks down on coronavirus misinformation. False claims that the vaccine contains microchips are banned.

Facebook Logo
Facebook logo is seen displayed on a phone screen in photo taken in Poland on November 29, 2020.

  • Facebook has banned false claims about COVID-19 vaccines in its latest attempt to stop the spread of misinformation.
  • Under the new rules, any claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects of the vaccines which have been debunked will be removed as will any conspiracy theories.
  • The news comes as the UK became the first Western nation in the world to approve a COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer this week.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Facebook has banned false claims about COVID-19 vaccines in its latest attempt to stop the rapid spread of misinformation on the platform.

Under the new rules, any claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients, or side effects of the vaccines which have been debunked will be removed, as will any conspiracy theories.

Kang-Xing Jin, Head of Health at Facebook, said in a blog statement on Thursday: “For example, we will remove false claims that COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips, or anything else that isn’t on the official vaccine ingredient list.

“This is another way that we are applying our policy to remove misinformation about the virus that could lead to imminent physical harm.”

One of the most widespread but debunked conspiracy theories is that the pandemic has been created by Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, to insert microchips into humans through a COVID-19 vaccine.

The news comes as the UK became the first Western nation in the world to approve a COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer this week.

In other steps, Facebook removed 12m coronavirus-related misinformation posts between March and October, including a video of Donald Trump saying children are “virtually immune,” according to AP.

Warning labels were put on 167m pieces of content, with 50m in April alone and 95% of people not clicking past to view the content resulting in the same time frame, the Independent reported.

In October, the company banned all ads discouraging vaccinations other than government advocacy ones and promoted articles debunking fake news on its information center, AP added.

The social networking site did not regulate anti-vaxx content until 2019, when it introduced its first policy of deleting misinformation, which could lead to physical harm, according to The Guardian.

Jin added that the new rules would not be enforced overnight “since it’s early and facts about COVID-19 vaccines will continue to evolve, we will regularly update the claims we remove based on guidance from public health authorities as they learn more.”

YouTube, owned by Google, and TikTok have also said they will remove false claims about COVID-19 vaccines, NPR reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider