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Behind the tweets: Edmonton doctors gain social media following amid COVID-19 pandemic – Global News

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As the world careened headlong into the Covid-19 pandemic, three Edmonton doctors saw an opportunity.

“When the pandemic first started, I really saw people were so hungry for information,” said Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious diseases physician at the University of Alberta. “It was a massive information vacuum and they would take up whatever was in that vacuum, including sometimes very dangerous and bad information.”

READ MORE: Edmonton’s Caulfield brothers battle COVID-19 misinformation with art, science

So Saxinger, Dr. Darren Markland, an intensive care physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, and Dr. Shazma Mithani, an emergency room physician at the Royal Alex and Stollery Children’s Hospital, decided it was time to speak up and step into that void of misinformation.

“I think it really is our job as physicians who are there on the front lines to do our best to keep Albertans informed with the most accurate information,” Mithani said.

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Mithani and Saxinger had very limited experience with social media and started more actively posting in the spring.

Markland, on the other hand, was a bit more comfortable on the platform, though he was probably more famous for his bicycle and canoe commuting than for his medical advice.

Read more:
Edmonton doctor canoes to work: ‘My commute is the best part of my day’

“Twitter for me was a place to run up to the edge of the cliff and just scream. And then one day, the echoes started to talk back,” he said.

Between the three doctors, they have over 31,000 followers on Twitter; a number that surprises even them.

“In a way it almost feels like a weird form of celebrity that I never really thought would happen for an infectious diseases physician,” Saxinger said.

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“I don’t think I’m that interesting,” Markland said.

To Markland’s surprise, he’s even been re-tweeted by actress Alyssa Milano

Actress, Alyssa Milano, retweets Edmonton doctor


Actress, Alyssa Milano, retweets Edmonton doctor.

The three of them see the work they’re doing online as one of the pillars of medical education — advocacy for both their patients and the healthcare system.

It’s what brought them all online in the first place.

“Social media and the desire to share truth and advocacy was shared by all three of us,” Markland said.

READ MORE: Misinformation is spreading as fast as coronavirus

As new “tweeters,” there was a bit of a learning curve.

“I only put out my first thread like, a month and a half ago, and it took me like an hour,” Mithani said. “I wanted to make sure it was well thought out, that I had all of the information that I wanted to get across in a simple and easy to understand way.”

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Saxinger shares that concern. Although one other thing causes some worry.

“It makes me feel a lot more conscious of my typos because a lot of people see them,” she said.

While social media can be an escape for some, it serves a different, more important purpose for these doctors.

Markland hopes to give his followers a chance to see, and hear, first-hand what’s going on inside the hospital during COVID-19.

“I know that whenever I leave the hospital, the world doesn’t seem as scary. And then I go into it and all of a sudden it’s the reality of the worst case scenarios,” he said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus misinformation is spreading — what is Canada doing about it?

For Mithani, it’s mostly about making information accessible and easy to understand.

“We have a way of simplifying things and helping the public understand more clearly what the best things to do are during the pandemic,” she said.

Saxinger said she’s an introvert and would often turn down interview requests from media outlets. That changed when the pandemic hit.

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“Researchers, physicians and academics, we often try to figure things out. But, in a way I think our responsibility doesn’t end with figuring it out. I think our responsibility ends with actually communicating it in a way that actually helps our community,” she said.

As with experiencing anything new, there also comes some lessons.

“There’s definitely a time where you have to stop doom-scrolling and put down the device and just get away from it. And I think I’m getting a better sense of that balance as well,” Saxinger said.

Markland has a few other lessons he’s learned from his social media experience.

“Don’t tweet when you’re drunk. Don’t tweet when you’re sleep deprived. Be a nice person and that goes a long way,” he said.

Markland, Mithani, and Saxinger are all friends outside the social media sphere. Markland and Saxinger have known each other since medical school, and Markland was Mithani’s mentor while she was doing her residency.

“It’s pretty fun to go through this journey with them. We text a lot,” Mithani said.

For Markland, it’s clear why people turn to them.

“We are gregarious and outgoing and social and that’s part of the reason I think we’re the doctors that we are,” he said.

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But he makes sure to keep social media and the real world separate.

“One’s got to be humble when they’re a physician, because if you take your eye off the ball you become a bad doctor and a good tweeter.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Investors push for social media controls ahead of U.S. inauguration – Cape Breton Post

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By Ross Kerber

BOSTON (Reuters) – Pension fund managers and religious investors on Friday asked top social media companies to step up their content control efforts to reduce the threat of violence ahead of the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden next week.

The effort is the latest pressure on Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc over extreme rhetoric after the storming of the U.S. Capitol last week by supporters of President Donald Trump.

In letters sent on Thursday, the investors – including New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the Service Employees International Union and the Unitarian Universalist Association – asked for steps including disabling the coding they said tends to elevate conspiracy theories and radicalizing content, and for the companies to continue to flag content with hashtags like #Stopthesteal.

In the longer run, boards and executives must review their “business model and reliance on algorithmic decision making, which has been linked to the spread of hate and disinformation online,” the letters said.

Alphabet representatives did not respond to questions. A Facebook spokesman said it has banned over 250 white supremacist groups and enforced rules like those barring militias from organizing on its platform. A Twitter representative cited actions it has taken like suspending accounts that mainly shared QAnon content.

Violent rhetoric on social media platforms has ramped up in recent weeks as groups planned openly for the gathering in Washington, according to researchers and public postings, prompting criticism of the companies for failing to take action in advance.

Twitter and Facebook banned Trump’s accounts last week as the tech giants scrambled to crack down on Trump’s baseless claims of fraud in the U.S. presidential election.

The activist investors together manage about $390 billion in assets but own relatively small stakes in the social media companies. Top shareholders in the space so far have declined to comment on their responses including BlackRock Inc Vanguard Group Inc and Morgan Stanley.

The bans on Trump have prompted concern among other investors that users and advertisers would leave for different platforms. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said the decision was correct but set a dangerous precedent. Facebook operations chief Sheryl Sandberg has said the company has no plans to lift its ban.

(Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Investors push for social media controls ahead of U.S. inauguration – The Guardian

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By Ross Kerber

BOSTON (Reuters) – Pension fund managers and religious investors on Friday asked top social media companies to step up their content control efforts to reduce the threat of violence ahead of the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden next week.

The effort is the latest pressure on Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc over extreme rhetoric after the storming of the U.S. Capitol last week by supporters of President Donald Trump.

In letters sent on Thursday, the investors – including New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the Service Employees International Union and the Unitarian Universalist Association – asked for steps including disabling the coding they said tends to elevate conspiracy theories and radicalizing content, and for the companies to continue to flag content with hashtags like #Stopthesteal.

In the longer run, boards and executives must review their “business model and reliance on algorithmic decision making, which has been linked to the spread of hate and disinformation online,” the letters said.

Alphabet representatives did not respond to questions. A Facebook spokesman said it has banned over 250 white supremacist groups and enforced rules like those barring militias from organizing on its platform. A Twitter representative cited actions it has taken like suspending accounts that mainly shared QAnon content.

Violent rhetoric on social media platforms has ramped up in recent weeks as groups planned openly for the gathering in Washington, according to researchers and public postings, prompting criticism of the companies for failing to take action in advance.

Twitter and Facebook banned Trump’s accounts last week as the tech giants scrambled to crack down on Trump’s baseless claims of fraud in the U.S. presidential election.

The activist investors together manage about $390 billion in assets but own relatively small stakes in the social media companies. Top shareholders in the space so far have declined to comment on their responses including BlackRock Inc Vanguard Group Inc and Morgan Stanley.

The bans on Trump have prompted concern among other investors that users and advertisers would leave for different platforms. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said the decision was correct but set a dangerous precedent. Facebook operations chief Sheryl Sandberg has said the company has no plans to lift its ban.

(Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Investors push for social media controls ahead of U.S. inauguration – The Guardian

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 on


By Ross Kerber

BOSTON (Reuters) – Pension fund managers and religious investors on Friday asked top social media companies to step up their content control efforts to reduce the threat of violence ahead of the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden next week.

The effort is the latest pressure on Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc over extreme rhetoric after the storming of the U.S. Capitol last week by supporters of President Donald Trump.

In letters sent on Thursday, the investors – including New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the Service Employees International Union and the Unitarian Universalist Association – asked for steps including disabling the coding they said tends to elevate conspiracy theories and radicalizing content, and for the companies to continue to flag content with hashtags like #Stopthesteal.

In the longer run, boards and executives must review their “business model and reliance on algorithmic decision making, which has been linked to the spread of hate and disinformation online,” the letters said.

Alphabet representatives did not respond to questions. A Facebook spokesman said it has banned over 250 white supremacist groups and enforced rules like those barring militias from organizing on its platform. A Twitter representative cited actions it has taken like suspending accounts that mainly shared QAnon content.

Violent rhetoric on social media platforms has ramped up in recent weeks as groups planned openly for the gathering in Washington, according to researchers and public postings, prompting criticism of the companies for failing to take action in advance.

Twitter and Facebook banned Trump’s accounts last week as the tech giants scrambled to crack down on Trump’s baseless claims of fraud in the U.S. presidential election.

The activist investors together manage about $390 billion in assets but own relatively small stakes in the social media companies. Top shareholders in the space so far have declined to comment on their responses including BlackRock Inc Vanguard Group Inc and Morgan Stanley.

The bans on Trump have prompted concern among other investors that users and advertisers would leave for different platforms. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said the decision was correct but set a dangerous precedent. Facebook operations chief Sheryl Sandberg has said the company has no plans to lift its ban.

(Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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