Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, Deplatform COVID-19 disinformation disseminators

Sign-on letter demanding Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter deplatform COVID-19 disinformation disseminators

July 19, 2021

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg, Ms. Sandberg, and Mr. Dorsey,

As the United States reopens and “normal” life resumes, COVID-19 infection rates continue to increase in areas where COVID-19 vaccination rates are low.1 This is happening as coronavirus variants are emerging and spreading across the country and the spread of disinformation about the pandemic, vaccine, and variants spread through social media platforms and bad actors. People are quite literally dying because disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic, the vaccine, and public health leaders is spreading.2

According to the Center for Countering Digital Hate and the Anti-Vax Watch alliance, COVID-19 disinformation is spreading across social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The primary perpetrators are the “Disinfo Dozen:” 12 content creators who share lies about COVID-19 and the vaccine, specifically targeting women, girls, and Black, Indigenous, and people of color.3 The accounts are owned by Joseph Mercola, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Christiane Northrup, Erin Elizabeth, Sayer Ji, Charlene & Ty Bollinger, Sherri Tenpenny, Ben Tapper, Kelly Brogan, Rizza Islam, Rashid Buttar, and Kevin Jenkins.4 As of July 15, 62 of the 97 accounts controlled by these individuals are accessible on social media platforms.5

The spread of medically inaccurate disinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccine is causing further suspicion, mistrust, and concern for already vulnerable populations. Lies about the vaccine causing infertility, or even death, are exacerbating the divide between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.6 While such fears regarding health and the ongoing pandemic are valid, perpetuation of dangerous and false information with malicious intent is extremely dangerous.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused profound loss across the country and world. In the U.S. alone, COVID-19 has killed more than 600,000 people.7 Among the most severely impacted are low-income women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ communities. The pandemic has only further exposed societal inequities like systemic racism, lack of access to public healthcare and accurate medical information.8,9

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have allowed disinformation and quack science to thrive, allowing the Disinformation Dozen to share inaccurate content that goes viral due to your platforms’ biased algorithms that prioritize clicks over the truth. Anti-vaccine “activists,” including the Disinfo Dozen, reach more than 62 million followers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, bringing in upwards of $1.1 billion in annual revenue for social media giants while the Anti-Vaccine industry brings in at least $36 million in annual revenue.10,11,12

While Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have committed to curbing the spread of disinformation on their platforms, they have stopped short of deplatforming the Disinfo Dozen, who contribute to more than two-thirds of anti-vaccine content. From a sample of 812,000 Facebook and Twitter shares and posts, 65% of anti-vaccine content is directly linked to these anti-vaxxers, their affiliated organizations, or their co-conspirators.13

Disinformation campaigns directed at women, girls, and Black and Brown people are perpetuating and instilling fear while increasing the number of preventable deaths and illness among already vulnerable communities.14,15,16 This puts a burden on parents in particular, who are forced to sift through thousands of posts, tweets, and stories for factual information. Refusal by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to speedily remove false content and deplatform bad actors is leading to misogynist, racist, transphobic, and homophobic targeting of women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ communities on the internet, exploiting people’s deep-seated fears, and clogging up social media feeds to prevent accurate information from being seen.17

12 state attorneys general, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Ben Ray Lujan, and members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce have sent letters to social media platform CEOs, including Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Dorsey, demanding the removal of disinformation disseminators from their respective sites, citing and sourcing reports done by the Center for Countering Digital Hate.18,19,20 They called on Facebook and Twitter to comply with the companies’ own community standards guidelines and remove fraudulent information–including from Facebook-owned platforms Instagram and WhatsApp.

Disinformation currently thrives on the internet, and it has real-world consequences. Disinformation on social media platforms led to the insurrectionist attack on our democracy at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and it is now putting lives in danger by discouraging people from getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Disinformation is not a partisan issue, and public health should not be a political issue at all.

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have served as the sites for the spread of hateful speech and dangerous disinformation. Now, as we are moving forward with reopening our country, it’s critical that Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter take immediate action to protect platform users by deplatforming the Disinfo Dozen and taking meaningful steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 disinformation.


Center for Countering Digital Hate
AI for the People
Alianza for Progress
Center for Civic Policy
Creators of The Social Dilemma
Decode Democracy
Dr. Jay Bhatt, LLC
Florida Immigrant Coalition
Free Press
Friends of the Earth
Media Matters for America
NARAL Pro-Choice America
Peninsula 360 Press
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
ProgressNow New Mexico
Reality Team
The Sparrow Project
Western States Center
Women’s March


1. Coronavirus infections dropping where people are vaccinated, rising where they are not, Post analysis finds, The Washington Post, June 14, 2021

2. Ibid.

3. Pandemic profiteers: The business of anti-vaxx, Center for Countering Digital Hate, June 1, 2021

4. Disinformation dozen: The sequel, Center for Countering Digital Hate, April 28, 2021

5. Center for Countering Digital Hate, July 15, 2021

6. Facebook Built the Perfect Platform for Covid Vaccine Conspiracies, Bloomberg Businessweek, April 1, 2021

7. Coronavirus deaths: U.S. map shows number of fatalities compared to confirmed cases, NBC News, March 23, 2020 (Updated June 21, 2021)

8. Racial Disparities in COVID-19, Science in the News, October 24, 2020

9. Fauci says pandemic exposed ‘undeniable effects of racism’, ABC News, May 16, 2021

10. Pandemic profiteers: The business of anti-vaxx, Center for Countering Digital Hate, June 1, 2021

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Disinformation dozen: The sequel, Center for Countering Digital Hate, April 28, 2021

14. 45 years ago, the nation learned about the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Its repercussions are still felt today., USA Today, July 25, 2017

15. Genetic privacy: We must learn from the story of Henrietta Lacks, New Scientist, August 1, 2020

16. ‘We are going to have to save ourselves,’ Black community fights deadly COVID vaccine conspiracy theories, USA Today, March 10, 2021

17. Instagram Suggested Posts To Users. It Served Up COVID-19 Falsehoods, Study Finds, NPR, March 9, 2021

18. Re: Vaccine Disinformation, Office of the Attorney General, Connecticut, March 24, 2021

19. Letter to Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Ben Ray Lujan, April 16, 2021

20. Letter to Jack Dorsey, Committee on Energy and Commerce, May 27, 2021