Stop the Spread of COVID-19 Disinformation!

SHOU ZI CHEW, PARAG AGRAWAL, EVAN SPIEGEL, SUSAN WOJCICKI, AND MARK ZUCKERBERG

Family's possessions removed after eviction.

COVID-19 disinformation and anti-vax lies are thriving on social media platforms as a new group -- children ages 5-11 -- just gained access to lifesaving vaccines. Parents across the country are making decisions about whether or not to vaccinate their children right now, and they are being duped. Unless social media platforms take immediate and decisive action to deplatform people who spread disinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccine, hundreds of thousands of kids will remain at risk of getting sick and prolonging the pandemic.  

Social media has an enormous influence on whether parents vaccinate their children. Recent polling by YouGov on behalf of ParentsTogether and SumofUs found that:


  • 75% of vaccine refusing parents get most of their information on COVID-19 and the vaccines from social media, instead of traditional news sources.

  • 1 in 5 parents say social media made them more likely to hold off on getting their children vaccinated or not get them vaccinated at all.

  • More than ½ of parents blame social media for the spread of the Delta variant

  • Two-thirds of parents see social media as problematic for health disinformation


This past summer showed how COVID-19 can spread rapidly among children, who represented almost 1 in 3 people infected in July and August. A 500% increase in hospitalizations for kids over the summer left pediatric hospitals across the country at capacity, and the CDC stated that hospitalization rates for kids were 3.7 times higher in states with the lowest vaccination rates than in the highest. These are the consequences of anti-vaccine disinformation.

Tell social media platforms they must crack down on disinfo now. And if you or a loved one have a personal experience with anti-vax disinformation on social media, please tell us about it in your reason for signing.

To: SHOU ZI CHEW, PARAG AGRAWAL, EVAN SPIEGEL, SUSAN WOJCICKI, AND MARK ZUCKERBERG
From: [Your Name]

Dear Mr. Chew, Mr. Agrawal, Mr. Spiegel, Ms. Wojcicki, and Mr. Zuckerberg
With the recent approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11, parents across the United States are now deciding whether to vaccinate their children. Medical professionals and institutions from the CDC to the AAP are doing all they can to urge parents towards vaccinations, but too often, their voices are drowned out by anti-vaccine disinformation and lies that flourish on your platforms. That disinformation on platforms like TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook has devastating results.

Because not enough people are getting vaccinated, COVID-19 has spread rapidly among children. This past summer, kids represented almost 1 in 3 people infected -- a 240% increase in pediatric cases. A 500% increase in hospitalizations for kids left pediatric hospitals across the country at capacity. According to the CDC, in the second half of August, emergency room visits by kids were 3.4 times higher in states with the lowest vaccination rates than in the highest. Hospitalization rates were 3.7 times higher. These are the consequences of anti-vaccine disinformation, and if enough parents believe those lies and don’t vaccinate their kids, the pandemic will continue to put families at risk and close schools.

Social media has an enormous influence on whether parents vaccinate their children. Recent polling by YouGov on behalf of ParentsTogether and SumfUs found that:

- 75% of unvaccinated parents distrust mainstream media sources and get most of their information from social media. In contrast, 58% of vaccinated parents prefer to get most of their COVID-19 information from mainstream media.
- Two out of three of all parents agree that health misinformation is a problem in social media.
- In this context, about half of American parents who are worried about catching or spreading the Delta variant specifically say they blame social media for enabling the rise of this variant.
In some cases, internal documents have shown social media companies are making combatting disinformation harder. For example, recent leaked documents showed Facebook researchers knew how COVID-19 and anti-vax lies were being spread through their platforms, but refused to share that information. This is unacceptable.
We are all bearing the costs of social media disinformation. We call on you to act urgently while parents are making the critical decision of vaccinating their children:
- Deplatform accounts that spread harmful lies about COVID-19 and the vaccines
- Put additional resources into detecting accounts that target parents and children with COVID disinformation
- Prevent disinformation from trending and being easily discovered on your platform
- Actively promote information for parents from trusted sources like the CDC and AAP on vaccination

As company executives, you are responsible for allowing rampant dissemination of lies and disinformation on COVID-19 and the vaccines. Your decisions will either help protect our kids or put their lives at risk. Please act immediately to deplatform all COVID-19 disinformation.