As we battle COVID-19, there’s another fight happening to stop the online spread of disinformation.
MINNEAPOLIS — There’s a lot of information about COVID-19 vaccines on the internet but social media has made it difficult to stop the spread of disinformation.
“Unfortunately, there’s a whole bunch of lies online about the vaccination,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota.
Sen. Klobuchar was joined by Dr. Abe Jacob, chief quality officer at M Health Fairview, and Rev. Alfred Babington-Johnson with Stairstep Foundation on Sunday afternoon to talk about efforts to combat disinformation.
The press conference was held at M Health Fairview’s largest vaccination site, located in Minneapolis.
Last month, Sen. Klobuchar and Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-New Mexico, sent letters to Twitter and Facebook to remove the “disinformation dozen.” According to a Center for Countering Digital Hate’s report, 12 people were responsible for 65% of all anti-vaccine content being shared on social media.
Twitter responded on April 29, saying it is currently “prioritizing the removal of the most harmful misleading accounts and information and labeling Tweets that contain potentially misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines.” Twitter added it had taken action against six of the “disinformation dozen” accounts, including one permanent suspension.
Facebook responded on May 1, saying it had reviewed the 12 people and “have taken action against a number of them for violating our policies.” Facebook added that to address misinformation, they have built a global network of more than 80 independent fact-checks who review content in more than 60 languages.
Both platforms said they’re making efforts to amplify credible information.
“You feel like it’s a game of Whac-A-Mole because you take care of one of them and then another comes up. So one of the messages I have is to talk to your doctor to realize that medical professionals are the key to deciding this,” Sen. Klobuchar said.
Meanwhile, health care providers like M Health Fairview are focused on getting the facts out.
“We know that if you get vaccinated, you go from having a one and 20 chance of being hospitalized to one in 200,000. We know that your chances to go over one in over a million of dying. I’ll take those odds to get vaccinated,” Dr. Jacob said.
Dr. Jacob said they are especially focused on getting high school and college students vaccinated right now. With proms, baccalaureates and graduations coming up, these students and their families will be getting together more than normal.
“I have a daughter who is a senior and I can see the schedule filling up and I’m like, I hope all those families are vaccinated,” Dr. Jacob said.
Rev. Babington-Johnson is making sure trusted information reaches the African American community. Stairstep Foundation has done about 18 events in African American churches throughout the Twin Cities metro area and have more planned in May and June. Call the Stairstep COVID-19 hotline at 612-254-1228 to register for one of their events this week.
“We are appreciative of the opportunity we’ve had to do vaccine events in trusted places with trusted faces in our churches,” Rev. Babington-Johnson said. “This is something we must do. I encourage any and all: Take advantage, get vaccinated.”