And yet, most of us just shake our heads and (rightly) complain about the social media platforms. It’s their problem to fix, we’ve decided.
To be clear, that is correct. The people who own and run social media platforms ARE a big part of the problem. But that doesn’t mean you and I are powerless in this situation.
- Just like we can choose to wear a mask…
- Just like we can choose to get vaccinated…
- Just like we can choose to quarantine when we’re sick…
…We can also choose to actively eliminate Covid disinformation and misinformation whenever we see it online. And those efforts, those little daily battles, can make a difference when you’re fighting a war.
Here are three things you can start doing today.
1. Stop the spread
I hereby deputize you to be a first responder on the front lines of the infodemic.
Whenever you see false information online, I challenge you to do something about it. I’m not talking about posts in which someone is merely venting or presenting their opinion. I’m talking about posts that contain or link to clear misinformation or disinformation.
Some example include…
- Stuff that has already been flagged as untrue by the platform (let the platform know you agree with their call!)
- Stuff that is decidedly untrue (e.g., “Covid is no more dangerous than the flu!”)
- Stuff that is not backed by science (e.g., “Hydrogen peroxide cures Covid!”)
When you see these types of posts, report them. This link includes step by step instructions on how to do that in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Viber, WhatsApp, YouTube, TikTok and VK.
Don’t worry if the person who posted the problematic information is your brother or your boss. This is an anonymous task. They won’t get an email outing you as the one who reported them.
Additionally, if the info was posted by someone you don’t know, consider blocking them. (Is this someone you really want to be connected to?) Or, if it was posted by someone you DO know, consider if it’s worth privately messaging them with the verifiable facts (note: they may not believe those facts, but it may be worth sharing.)
2. Watch for Posts by the “Disinformation Dozen”
You may have seen the recent news that up to 65% of the Covid disinformation online (and 73% of Facebook’s anti-vax content) is being spread by just 12 sources. Here is a list of them.
- Joseph Mercola
- Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
- Ty & Charlene Bollinger
- Sherri Tenpenny
- Rizza Islam
- Rashid Buttar
- Erin Elizabeth
- Sayer Ji
- Kelly Brogan
- Christiane Northrup
- Ben Tapper
- Kevin Jenkins
These 12 sources are currently playing a leading role in spreading digital misinformation about Covid vaccines. So, if you see something shared online that originated from one of these 12 people, flag and report it.
You also have the option to privately message the person who shared that content and let them know their source is suspect, (so much so that it’s being monitored by the government) and they should consider deleting the post entirely and not sharing stuff by that source in the future. Feel free to send them a link to this report.
Please note, do not get into a public debate about the post or the 12 sources. This will simply drive attention, clicks, and engagement back to their content, ultimately undoing your efforts. (This is why I’ve chosen not to hyperlink the 12 in the list above. If you want to Google them, be my guest. Most are active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).
3. Demand Accountability
While the first two steps are important work, (that takes little time or energy) you and I are a but small sandbags trying to hold back a tidal wave. The social media platforms host the wave and need to be held accountable for their actions. We can play a small role in making that happen.
- Sign petitions/Stay informed. The Center for Countering Digital Hate has a number of resources to explore under the “Covid” tab.
- Support the politicians currently working on this issue. Three senators and 12 attorney generals have already contacted Twitter and Facebook to talk about the Disinformation Dozen. If you support their work, let them know (and encourage them to take it further) or give them a vote in their next election. (Shout outs to my own Senator, Amy Klobuchar and AG, Keith Ellison who are part of this group.)
- Contact social media advertisers. If you see disinformation pop up in your feed next to an ad for a big retailer, go ahead and take a screen grab of the two images co-existing and drop it into an email or tweet to the advertiser’s company headquarters. Ask them why they’ve chosen to associate themselves with dangerous content. Invite your friends to ask them that question too.
- Vote for candidates who understand how the Internet works. (Someday I’ll write a whole post about this topic.) Very few politicians understand modern technology, thus they are unable to legislate, regulate, or protect citizens from abuses of power or privacy that come with a rapidly expanding and changing ecosystem.
Hope these suggestions help. Best wishes to you, brave truth warrior. May your aim be true.
Thank you for joining me in this fight.
*These are two different things. Misinformation is simply false information spread without the intent to mislead. Someone simply got their facts wrong or interpreted those facts in a way that distorted them. Disinformation is knowingly spread misinformation with the intent to manipulate others (for example, propaganda).