Advance Notice: Briefs

Nessel urges tech leaders to crack down on vaccine misinformation

By: - March 25, 2021 1:46 pm

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Attorney General Dana Nessel joined other attorneys general in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey urging the tech leaders to fully enforce company guidelines against vaccine misinformation on their social media websites. 

“The availability of safe and effective vaccines means the end of this pandemic is finally in sight. However, disinformation threatens that,” Nessel said. “The rampant disinformation being disseminated across social media platforms directly undermines all efforts to safely and quickly distribute vaccines and limit further loss of life.” 

According to Nessel, false information regarding the safety of coronavirus vaccines has reached more than 59 million followers on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. Vaccine misinformation is also used to disproportionately target people of color and Black Americans specifically — communities who have already been hardest hit by COVID-19 and whose vaccination rates are already lagging.  

The letter cites specific examples where Facebook and Twitter have failed to enforce their existing guidelines, including:  

  • Twitter and Facebook have yet to remove the accounts of prominent anti-vaxxers who have repeatedly violated the companies’ terms of service. 
  • Facebook has failed to consistently apply misinformation labels and popups on Facebook pages and groups that discuss vaccines or COVID-19. 
  • Facebook has allowed anti-vaxxers to skirt its policy of removing misinformation that health experts have debunked, by failing to prevent them from using video and streaming tools like Facebook Live and sites like Bitchute, Rumble, and Brighteon to evade detection.  

The letter comes as Zuckerberg, Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai are set to testify Thursday at a joint hearing of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee and the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives regarding social media’s role in promoting extremism and misinformation.  

Nessel was joined by a coalition of 11 other attorneys general from Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia. 

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.