They’re bogus, for starters

Torn medical mask.
Torn medical mask.
Photo: Mikhail Dmitriev/Getty Images

A scam involving the sale of bogus “exemption cards” for people who don’t want to wear masks or get the Covid-19 vaccine is still being blatantly promoted on Facebook and Twitter, despite promises from both companies to curb health misinformation.

Advertisements for exemption cards claiming “Medical Mask Exemption” and statements such as, “Under the law of informed consent I refuse any and all vaccinations,” were identified across social networks by Media Matters, a left-leaning media watchdog group and nonprofit organization. …

Tens of thousands of Facebook users participate in groups that spread misinfo about vaccines — some with an odd religious bent

A protester holds an anti-vaccination sign. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

A month after Facebook said it would expand efforts to scrub its platforms of vaccine misinformation, false narratives about the Covid-19 vaccine are still flourishing in public and private Facebook communities.

OneZero found dozens of anti-vax groups, public and private, some of which have tens of thousands of users. The sheer abundance of anti-vax material in Facebook groups suggests that the company’s current tools and strategies aren’t enough to tackle even surface-level vaccine misinformation.

Facebook has not released a progress update since its blog post last month, and it did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a…

Data belonging to Alex Jones, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green, and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell may be included

Alex Jones and his phone. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A hacker targeted far-right social network Gab and stole more than 70 gigabytes of user data, including 40 million posts and private messages, Wired reported on Sunday.

Gab CEO Andrew Torba acknowledged the hack on Sunday, claiming the platform was attacked by “demon hackers” and referred to these individuals using a transphobic slur, The Verge noted.

The hacker identifies as “JaXpArO and My Little Anonymous Revival Project” and “siphoned that data out of Gab’s backend databases in an effort to expose the platform’s largely right-wing users,” according to Wired. …

‘Vaccine hunters are the result of short supply, disorganization, inadequate sign-up systems, dire circumstances, and crowded hospitals’

A UCHealth pharmacy technician prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination event in the parking lot of Coors Field on February 20, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

In a Facebook group called Minneapolis Vaccine Hunters, a member recently shared a flyer announcing that a local shelter for people experiencing homelessness would be hosting Covid-19 vaccinations on February 11 — no appointment necessary. “Please be mindful that this clinic is intended for unsheltered people in Hennepin County,” noted the flyer, which was conspicuously addressed to individuals “living on the street.”

Later, in a separate post, another Facebook member said they’d managed to get vaccinated at the shelter. They were not homeless, as the flyer intended, but arrived late in the day and received a leftover dose from vaccination…

‘I’m concerned that Facebook could misinterpret what we’re about’

Image: NurPhoto/Getty Images

Three years ago, Kate Bilowitz, a real estate worker with an armchair curiosity about health misinformation, created a Facebook group for vaccine discourse. Vaccine Talk: An Evidence Based Discussion Forum was created as a good-faith space for conversations about vaccines. The group’s original tagline stated that it was “a forum for both pro- and anti-vaxxers,” but beneath the hood it relied on dozens of moderators and admins to keep the community free of false medical claims, eventually attracting 54,000 members.

“It’s one of the few places on Facebook where both sides, and people in the middle, can come together and…

The changes come months after the start of the vaccine rollout in the U.S.

Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone screen with the words COVID-19 blurred in the background on a laptop screen
Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone screen with the words COVID-19 blurred in the background on a laptop screen
Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

Facebook announced in a blog post on Monday that it intends to start removing vaccine misinformation from groups and pages, expanding its focus on “debunked claims” about the Covid-19 vaccine.

“We’re running the largest worldwide campaign to promote authoritative information about COVID-19 vaccines,” wrote Kang-Xing Jin, Facebook’s head of health, adding that “following consultations with leading health organizations, including the WHO, we’re expanding the list of false claims we will remove to include additional debunked claims about COVID-19 and vaccines.”

“Today’s change was a response to a ruling from Facebook’s Oversight Board,” the New York Times reported. In an issuance…

The company’s CEO says MeWe does not enforce ‘political litmus tests’ or target political affiliations

Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Alternative social network MeWe became a destination for right-wing speech surrounding the Capitol riots last month. In groups and chatrooms, some users celebrated the violence in Washington, D.C., and endorsed the possibility of killing their perceived opponents.

Following the attack, MeWe announced that it was cooperating with U.S. Capitol Police and cracked down on far-right groups like Stop the Steal across the platform. MeWe says it began removing accounts and messages promoting violence and in a tweet, the company said it was removing Stop the Steal groups and encouraged people to report such communities. “We are taking Stop the Steal…

Congress asked the FBI to investigate the app’s role in promoting ‘civil unrest’ in the U.S. — but the entire social media ecosystem demands scrutiny

Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The House Oversight and Reform Committee chair demanded on Thursday that the FBI “conduct a robust examination” of Parler and its alleged role in the Capitol riots on January 6, which resulted in the deaths of five individuals and for which hundreds of people are being investigated by the Justice Department.

In a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray published by the Washington Post, the committee’s chairwoman and New York Representative Carolyn Maloney asked the agency to consider Parler as “a potential facilitator of planning and incitement related to the violence, as a repository of key evidence posted by users…

‘Have you tried to moderate 15 million people?’ MeWe founder Mark Weinstein told OneZero

A photo illustration of the home page of the social media application MeWe displayed on the screen of an iPhone.
A photo illustration of the home page of the social media application MeWe displayed on the screen of an iPhone.
Photo illustration: Chesnot/Getty Images

“I’m an American who is sick and tired of you traitors,” an account going by the name Chuck Testa posted on MeWe, an alternative social network popular with far-right extremists, two days after the Capitol riots. “Did you think we weren’t going to fight back… There is no place for you. You must be purged,” they continued, writing in the chatroom for a Stop the Steal group of more than 2,700 members. Testa’s proposed solution to the nonbelievers? A “firing squad.”

Across MeWe, movements such as Stop the Steal and QAnon, along with right-wing militia groups, have taken root as…

’Guaranteed not a hack’

Image: NurPhoto/Getty Images

Before Parler went offline Monday morning, a hacker reportedly downloaded all the data that users had shared to the platform, including images, video, and deleted posts mentioning the assault on the Capitol last week, Motherboard reported.

Now, some Trump supporters who have fled to MeWe and Telegram are insisting the hack is “fake news,” and are baselessly claiming it was coordinated by Twitter and Amazon Web Services to dissuade people from using Parler, in the event that it returns. …

Sarah Emerson

Staff writer at OneZero covering social platforms, internet communities, and the spread of misinformation online. Previously: VICE

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