With vaccination against COVID-19 in full swing, social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter say they’ve stepped up their fight against misinformation that aims to undermine trust in the vaccines. But problems abound.
For years, the same platforms have allowed anti-vaccination propaganda to flourish, making it difficult to stamp out such sentiments now. And their efforts to weed out other types of COVID-19 misinformation — often with fact-checks, informational labels and other restrained measures, has been woefully slow.
Twitter, for instance, announced this month that it will remove dangerous falsehoods about vaccines, much the same way it’s done for other COVID-related conspiracy theories and misinformation. But since April 2020, it has removed a grand total of 8,400 tweets spreading COVID-related misinformation — a tiny fraction of the avalanche of pandemic-related falsehoods tweeted out daily by popular users with millions of followers, critics say.
“While they fail to take action, lives are being lost,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a watchdog group. In December, the non-profit found that 59 million accounts across social platforms follow peddlers of anti-vax propaganda — many of whom are immensely popular superspreaders of misinformation.
Efforts to crack down on vaccine misinformation now, though, are generating cries of censorship and prompting some posters to adopt sneaky tactics to avoid the axe.
“It’s a hard situation because we have let this go for so long,” said Jeanine Guidry, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies social media and health information. “People using social media have really been able to share what they want for nearly a decade.”
The Associated Press identified more than a dozen Facebook pages and Instagram accounts, collectively boasting millions of followers, that have made false claims about the COVID-19 vaccine or discouraged people from taking it. Some of these pages have existed for years.
Of more than 15 pages identified by NewsGuard, a technology company that analyzes the credibility of websites, roughly half remain active on Facebook, the AP found.
One such page, The Truth About Cancer, has more than a million Facebook followers after years of posting baseless suggestions that vaccines could cause autism or damage children’s brains. The page was identified in November as a “COVID-19 vaccine misinformation super spreader” by NewsGuard.
Recently, the page stopped posting about vaccines and the coronavirus. It now directs people to sign up for its newsletter and visit its website as a way to avoid alleged “censorship.”
Facebook said it is taking taking “aggressive steps to fight misinformation across our apps by removing millions of pieces of COVID-19 and vaccine content on Facebook and Instagram during the pandemic.”
“Research shows one of the best ways to promote vaccine acceptance is by showing people accurate, trusted information, which is why we’ve connected 2 billion people to resources from heath authorities and launched a global information campaign,” the company said in a statement.
Facebook also banned ads that discourage vaccines and said it has added warning labels to more than 167 million pieces of additional COVID-19 content thanks to our network of fact-checking partners. (The Associated Press is one of Facebook’s fact-checking partners).
YouTube, which has generally avoided the same type scrutiny as its social media peers despite being a source of misinformation, said it has removed more than 30,000 videos since October, when it started banning false claims about COVID-19 vaccinations. Since February 2020, it has removed over 800,000 videos related to dangerous or misleading coronavirus information, said YouTube spokeswoman Elena Hernandez.
Prior to the pandemic, however, social media platforms had done little to stamp out misinformation, said Andy Pattison, manager of digital solutions for the World Health Organization. In 2019, as a measles outbreak slammed the Pacific Northwest and left dozens dead in America Samoa, Pattison pleaded with big tech companies to take a closer look at tightening rules around vaccine misinformation that he feared might make the outbreak worse — to no avail.
It wasn’t until COVID-19 struck with a vengeance that many of those tech companies started listening. Now he meets weekly with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to discuss trends on their platforms and policies to consider.
“When it comes to vaccine misinformation, the really frustrating thing is that this has been around for years,” Pattison said.
The targets of such crackdowns are often quick to adapt. Some accounts use intentionally misspelled words — like “vackseen” or “vΓåòx” — to avoid bans. (Social platforms say they’re wise to this.) Other pages use more subtle messaging, images or memes to suggest that vaccines are unsafe or even deadly.
“When you die after the vaccine, you die of everything but the vaccine,” read one meme on an Instagram account with more than 65,000 followers. The post suggested that the government is concealing deaths from the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s a very fine line between freedom of speech and eroding science,” Pattison said. Purveyors of misinformation, he said, “learn the rules, and they dance right on the edge, all the time.”
Twitter said it is continuously reviewing its rules in the context of COVID-19 and changes them based on guidance from experts. Earlier this month, it added a strikes policy that threatens repeat spreaders of coronavirus and vaccine misinformation with bans.
But blatantly false COVID-19 information continues to pop up. Earlier this month, several articles circulating online claimed that more elderly Israelis who took the Pfizer vaccine were “killed” by the shot than those who died from COVID-19 itself. One such article from an anti-vaccination website was shared nearly 12,000 times on Facebook, leading earlier this month to a spike of nearly 40,000 mentions of “vaccine deaths” across social platforms and the internet, according to an analysis by media intelligence firm Zignal Labs.
Medical experts point to a real-world study showing a strong correlation between vaccination and decreases in severe COVID-19 disease in Israel. The nation’s health ministry said in a Thursday statement that the COVID-19 vaccine has “profoundly” reduced the rate of deaths and hospitalizations.
As U.S. vaccine supplies continue to increase, immunization efforts will soon shift from targeting a limited supply to the most vulnerable populations to getting as many shots into as many arms as possible. That means tackling the third of the country’s population who say they will not or probably won’t get it, as measured by a February AP-NORC poll.
“Vaccine hesitancy and misinformation could be a big barrier to getting enough of the population vaccinated to end the crisis,” said Lisa Fazio, a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University.
Some health officials and academics generally believe that the social-platform efforts are helpful, at least on the margins. What’s not clear is how big of a dent they can put in the problem.
“If someone truly believes that the COVID vaccine is harmful and they feel a responsibility to share that with friends and family … they will find a way,” Guidry said.
And some still blame business models that they say encouraged the platforms to serve up engaging, if false, coronavirus misinformation in order to profit from advertising.
When the Center for Countering Digital Hate recently studied the crossover between different types of disinformation and hate speech, it found that Instagram tended to cross-pollinate misinformation via its algorithm. Instagram might feed an account that followed a QAnon conspiracy site further posts from, say, white nationalists or anti-vaxxers.
“You continue to allow things to disintegrate because of the seamless intermingling of misinformation and information on your platforms,” Ahmed, the centre’s CEO, said.
Media Release – October 15, 2021 – Guelph Police – guelphpolice.ca
Girl faces child porn charges over explicit images
A Guelph teenager faces child pornography charges after explicit photos and a video of her ex-boyfriend were shared on social media.
On Thursday the Guelph Police Service was contacted by a concerned mother indicating photos of her 14-year-old son had been posted online. Investigation revealed the boy’s former girlfriend sent the images and video to her current boyfriend, who posted them on a popular social media site.
Further investigation also revealed the girl had sent the images to the victim’s father as well.
A 14-year-old Guelph female is charged with possessing child pornography and two counts of distributing child pornography. She will appear in court in December. The investigation is ongoing.
Rail worker struck, female charged
A Guelph female was charged after a railway worker was struck by a vehicle while doing traffic control Thursday morning.
Approximately 7:15 a.m. the Guelph Police Service was called to the area of Alma Street North and Crimea Street. Investigation revealed a worker was stopping traffic for an approaching train when he was struck. The worker was transported to hospital by Guelph Wellington Paramedic Service for treatment of a minor leg injury.
A 38-year-old Guelph female was charged under the Highway Traffic Act with careless driving.
Two downtown businesses entered
The Guelph Police Service is investigating after two downtown businesses had their glass doors smashed and items stolen this week.
Approximately 10 a.m. Wednesday, the owner of a business on Macdonell Street near Wyndham Street North called police after arriving at work to find the front door smashed. An undetermined amount of product was reported stolen.
The incident remains under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call Constable Brad Townsend at 519-824-1212, ext. 7123, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, leave an anonymous message for Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or leave an anonymous tip online at www.csgw.tips.
On Thursday morning, approximately 8:25 a.m., police received a call from a passerby reporting another business in the same area also had a smashed front glass door. Officers cleared the building but did not locate anyone inside. A cash register containing cash and three Samsung tablets were reported missing.
The incident remains under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call Constable Brett Nymeyer at 519-824-1212, ext. 7227, email him at email@example.com, leave an anonymous message for Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or leave an anonymous tip online at www.csgw.tips.
Female arrested for break and enter
A female has been arrested in connection with two break and enters at west-end apartment buildings earlier this year.
On February 12, just before 1 a.m., a female gained entry to an apartment building in the area of Paisley Road and Elmira Road South. She was observed on surveillance video stealing various items including pottery and a table. She left the building but returned a short time later driving an SUV and was able to gain access to the parking garage of an adjacent building, where she stole power tools and other items from a vehicle.
She was eventually identified based on surveillance footage and was arrested Thursday.
A 37-year-old female of no fixed address is charged with break and enter and theft under $5,000. She will appear in a Guelph bail court November 2, 2021.
Total calls for service in the last 24 hours – 219
A lot of candidates, a lot of social media – The Calgary Journal
On Monday, Calgarians will make their way to ballot boxes to cast their votes in the municipal election. The election marks a major shift for Calgary as it’s the first time in 11 years that Naheed Nenshi is not on the ballot.
The city is about to vote in a new leader and to help you keep up with all the candidates, we’ve curated their social media accounts into one place. From workout photos to puppy pictures, take a look at what Calgary’s mayoral candidates are posting online.
Facebook: Vote Ian Chiang for Mayor of Calgary
Facebook: Jan Damery for Calgary Mayor
Facebook: Jeff Davison for Mayor
Facebook: Jeromy Farkas – Standing Up For Calgarians &
Facebook: Brad Field
Facebook: Jyoti Gondek for Mayor
Facebook: Dean Hopkins for Calgary Mayor
Twitter: U E Cory Lanterman
Facebook: CORY for MAYOR
Facebook: Zane4Mayor Calgary
Facebook: Teddy4Mayor-YYC Volunteers
Twitter: SunnySinghForMAYOR YYC
Facebook: Sunny Singh(Amarpal Singh)
Facebook: Shaoli Wang(Mayoral Candidate)
Zaheed Ali Khan
Facebook: James Desautels
Instagram: desautels 4 mayor
Facebook: Mizanur Rahman
- Paul Michael Hallelujah
- Randall Kaiser
- Geoff Rainey
- Kevin J. Johnson
- Larry Heather
- Stan the Man Waciak
Media Advisory: Premier Furey, Minister Coady and Minister Haggie to Announce Mandatory Vaccination Policy – News Releases – Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
The Honourable Andrew Furey, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Honourable Siobhan Coady, Deputy Premier and President of Treasury Board, and the Honourable John Haggie, Minister of Health and Community Services, will announce the province’s mandatory vaccination policy today (Friday, October 15) at 1:00 p.m. at the Media Centre, East Block, Confederation Building.
The event will be live-streamed on the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Facebook and YouTube accounts. Media covering the announcement will have the opportunity to join in person in the media centre or by teleconference. Media planning to attend this event should register with Jillian Hood (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 11:00 a.m.
Prior to the event, a technical briefing for media will be held at 12:00 p.m.
Media attending the briefing will have the opportunity to join in person in the media centre or by teleconference. Media who wish to participate in the technical briefing should RSVP to Jillian Hood (email@example.com), who will provide the details and the required information.
Media must join the teleconference at 11:45 a.m. (NST) to be included on the call. For sound quality purposes, registered media are asked to use a land line if at all possible.
Office of the Premier
Treasury Board Secretariat
Health and Community Services
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