On July 15, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki disclosed the fact that the White House was flagging COVID-19 misinformation posts for Facebook. She continued to dig herself into a hole on Friday, discussing how the administration is in contact with the social media companies and arguing that they needed to work across platforms to ensure the companies coordinated to ban users. She claimed that 12 individuals were responsible for 65% of the vaccine misinformation on Facebook.
At some point on Friday, Twitter locked the account of journalist Alex Berenson, the author of the series Unreported Truths About COVID-19 and Lockdowns. When Psaki referred to the dozen users, it seemed logical to think that Berenson and others who have objected to the preferred narrative, like evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein, would be on the list. Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have also given a platform to dissenting doctors. After following COVID-19 news very carefully for the last 18 months, I can say that all of these seem like logical targets for the administration.
As it turns out, none of them are on the list. The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) produced a report called “The Disinformation Dozen,” based on its analysis of anti-vaccine Facebook posts. The CCDH is the same group that pushed for Google to demonetize The Federalist and ZeroHedge and for Twitter to ban British firebrand Katie Hopkins. According to Influence Watch, it is a UK-based NGO made up of people tied to the Labour Party. From the CCDH report’s executive summary:
Analysis of a sample of anti-vaccine content that was shared or posted on Facebook and Twitter a total of 812,000 times between 1 February and 16 March 2021 shows that 65 percent of anti-vaccine content is attributable to the Disinformation Dozen.
Of the names on the list, one is easily recognizable, only because he is notoriously anti-vaccine and the son of a political dynasty:
- Joseph Mercola
- Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
- Ty and Charlene Bollinger
- Sherri Tenpenny
- Rizza Islam
- Rashid Buttar
- Erin Elizabeth
- Sayer Ji
- Kelly Brogan
- Christiane Northrup
- Ben Tapper
- Kevin Jenkins
According to the report, social media users shared many of the posts and articles written by these 12 individuals in anti-vaccine groups that existed before COVID-19. The CCDH called for the social media companies to work together to deplatform all 12 of these individuals and organizations that oppose vaccines:
- Children’s Health Defense (Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.)
- Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN) (Del Bigtree)
- National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) (Barbara Loe Fisher, Joseph Mercola)
- Organic Consumers Association (OCA) (Joseph Mercola)
- Millions Against Medical Mandates
Once you know the source of the users flagged by the White House, it blows up their message that this is a political issue driven by conservatives or confined to red states. The identified individuals are from all kinds of backgrounds. Some have been producing alternative health content and products for years. Almost all were opposed to vaccines before COVID-19, and some of them were so bold as to object to face masks. At least three base their opinion on past sins of the government in medical experimentation and speak specifically to those fears in the black community.
The exception appears to be Millions Against Medical Mandates, which is specific to COVID-19 and seems to focus on forcing young people and students to take the vaccine. Respected medical professionals are currently debating this topic. In June, the UK decided to wait for more data on the effects of the COVID-19 vaccine before recommending the jab for children under 15.
Censorship of the dirty dozen could be the first step in further silencing people like Berenson, Weinstein, and others who oppose the preferred health bureaucracy narrative on COVID-19 and vaccines. Just as when they banned Milo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones, it simply tests the water. And they never intend to stop at the truly outrageous or offensive. That is why even if you think the dirty dozen and identified networks are a bit loony, no one should support Big Tech or the government censoring them. Wouldn’t you rather see the content your loved one is reading so you can give them an alternative point of view?
Further, banning these individuals and groups is only going to make people seek them out elsewhere. Del Big Tree has already announced a wholly owned web property that will include social media-like features for users to share information. The groups and medical professionals likely have mailing lists and other ways to contact followers that do not rely on social media platforms. Banning them will not prevent their content from being shared and will likely only increase interest in what they have to say.
Democrats and the Left have never understood fundamental human nature. When you ban ideas that oppose the government narrative, it makes people more curious, not less. Call it a modified version of the Streisand effect. If the Biden administration were interested in relieving COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, they would put forth convincing arguments, data, and information to make people feel as if they could give informed consent. More listening and less vilifying would be a much better strategy.