Labor accuses government of ‘appeasement’ of online vaccine misinformation
The government has been accused of appeasement as an analysis of the work found that dedicated anti-vaccination groups on social media with hundreds of thousands of members continued to spread disinformation about the coronavirus.
Labor has said closing the Counter Disinformation Forum – which has brought together social media companies, academics, fact-checkers and researchers to examine Covid disinformation – after a six-month trial meant more lives were lost and pressure was being put on the NHS.
It comes as the Prime Minister said 90% of people in intensive care with Covid had not had their booster injection.
Labor called for emergency legislation to criminalize companies that fail to act to remove anti-vaccination content.
The party said the government had not acted with enough force, nor had it made the progress promised with the upcoming online security bill.
It comes as Thames Valley police requested information about an anti-vaccination protest at a vaccination center in Milton Keynes on Wednesday.
Milton Keynes North Conservative MP Ben Everitt said of the protest on Twitter, “What a bunch of assholes. The staff and volunteers at our vax centers do an incredible job. No one deserves this at work.
He added that he hoped the police would get the evidence they needed to “bring these morons to justice”.
Boris Johnson also visited a vaccine delivery site in the city on Wednesday, where he said: “I have spoken to doctors who say the numbers are reaching 90% of people in intensive care who are not boosted. “
Labor shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said: “The continued spread of vaccine misinformation online is affecting vaccine uptake, and addressing this issue is critical to making it happen. vaccinate the unvaccinated.
“One person repelled by dangerous anti-vaccines is one too many.
“Tech giants are failing to eliminate lies about vaccines. The truth is, the government’s complacency on fake news means it is taking no action against online platforms that facilitate the spread of disinformation. It is now a matter of life and death.
“The government must stand up to the big tech companies, ignore their apologies and introduce financial and criminal penalties for failures that cause serious harm. “
The work said long-term monitoring by the Center for Countering Digital Hate of those streaming anti-vaccine and Covid-denial content from the UK revealed nearly 1.5 million subscribers, including more half a million followers on Facebook.
The party said the analysis also showed Facebook still hosted accounts belonging to Disinformation Dozen, the 12 anti-vaccines responsible for up to 65% of anti-vaccine content on Facebook and Twitter.
The Labor Party highlighted another account under the name of Dr Vernon Coleman calling the Covid shots “murder” and said closing the Counter Disinformation Forum was a mistake.
Earlier this month, Minister of Technology and Digital Economy Chris Philp said the forum “is a six-month pilot program.”
But he added that “the DCMS (Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sports) has led the anti-disinformation unit to monitor false and misleading accounts shared on social media.”
He said: “When dangerous and incorrect claims regarding the virus are identified, they are reported to the relevant platforms.”
The government said the larger anti-disinformation unit still exists and “continues to work closely with social media companies to identify and remove dangerous disinformation about vaccines.”
A spokesperson said: ‘We have one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the world and over the past year we have provided people with advice and information on vaccines in one of the largest public health campaigns ever launched. “
The spokesperson added that “tough new online security laws” would force companies to take action.
“Now that Parliament has provided the necessary scrutiny of the legislation, we will present it as soon as possible,” they added.