Another Facebook Fail: Toxic Antivaxxers Run Amok

Do the research: millions of deaths worldwide, countless suffering, and trillions of dollars later, Facebook and Google are doing nothing to stop the flood of misinformation.

Googling “antivaxxers on facebook” returns just over two million results, the first being a link to the Facebook page “Anti-Vaxxer.”

This very much active page shows Facebook’s non-dedication to stopping vaccine misinformation and slowing down anti-vaxxers despite the second link, a three-month-old Guardian article promising to do just that.

Ever since Dr. Edward Jenner opened the first vaccination clinic in London, infecting people with the harmless cowpox to build immunity against debilitating and deadly smallpox, vaccine opponents have been spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt. They see an implicit right to ignore vaccines which mirrors the same implicit right the January 6th rioters saw to overturn an election. In the name of freedom, anti-vaxxers believe they have a right to do wrong.

Make no mistake: refusing to vaccinate oneself is wrong. It’s a boneheaded move stemming from ignorance, selfishness, and paranoia. Are the COVID-19 vaccines well tested? Of course not; they’re far too new. Is that really what concerns them? No. Plenty also reject decades-old vaccines and more than a few even deny that COVID is real.

I know one anti-vaxxer who first claimed COVID isn’t real, then that it was caused by 5G (at a time there weren’t any 5G towers), then that Bill Gates had something to do with it, then that the masks cause oxygen depletion, and now she’s onto something about Agenda 21, Agenda 2030, somebody named Klaus Schwab, the WEF, and the Great Reset. When pushed by somebody far more patient than I am for facts, she argued “this is MY page” a common refrain from those deluded enough to believe they own their small corner of Facebook. Their shrill cry “do the research” means believe my baseless memes or suffer endless ad hominem attacks.

Promises to reign in anti-vaxxers were entirely ignored: they’re running amok spreading misinformation, especially on Facebook. Zuck & Co. — who supported holocaust denial until not so long ago — aren’t doing anything about it despite their pledge to. Worse, Google is actually helping to disseminate the nonsense.

Let’s clear something up: nobody owns their Facebook page or group. Everything on Facebook is owned by Facebook. The website, along with Twitter, YouTube, and all the rest, is a company town. They can shut you down for any reason or no reason at all. Of course, they rarely do. It’s far more common they let crazy people, spambots, and even government agents sow misinformation that harms the well-being of democracy, decency, and public health. Why? Because clicks beget ads and ads are money.

The web and even big tech started out as an almost utopian ideal but, as usually happens, utopia devolved into dystopia when gold flowed. At this point, they could care less about anything besides maximizing engagement and clicks. And if the maximization comes at the cost of an increased body count, a pogrom, and the occasional dictator rising to power then so be it. After all, what’s a touch of genocidal ethnic cleansing as long as the stock price goes up, up, up.

We all know the Steve Ditko/Stan Lee line from the first introduction to Spider-Man, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Maybe neither Zuck nor Pichai read comic books; they don’t seem the types to have much of a sense of humor. Or maybe they’re too buried in their company’s stock tickers to look up and see the mayhem, pain, and body count their laissez-faire attitude comes with, as long as it’s nothing they personally find disagreeable.

Fake anti-vax information is a literal and figurative infection on the world. These people are going to leave us locked up over and over, their arrogance enabling wave after wave of physical and economic destruction. Their notion that they have a “right” to spread disease is straight out of Ayn Rand’s playbook; lots of rights but no responsibility whatsoever to the public. If that sounds like a description of spoiled children to you, it does to me, too.

Would everybody prefer if the COVID-19 vaccines were tested for 30 years? Of course: who wouldn’t. I’d personally prefer if the disease never circulated in the first place. It’s caused enormous damage. Most but not all people survive but plenty are left sick for a very long time; I know a “long-hauler” who has been sick since December. A close friend of my wife’s mom died. Everybody knows somebody who was affected even if they weren’t personally. And, of course, we’ve all been locked up. I’ve never had such bad hair in my life.

By any rational measure, the anti-vaxxers tend to be crazy. But Facebook and Google know exactly what they’re doing letting this nonsense flow and we know the exact reason they allow it: money. Controversy begets engagement which leads to eyeballs and ad dollars, never mind the body count. It was one thing when these were young companies run by inexperienced managers trying to figure things out. Now, they’re long past that stage. Facebook, Google … grow up. Knock it off. Not only the anti-vax messages but all the rest too. And don’t pretend you don’t know what’s going on: as they say in Latin res ipsa loquitor: the truth is apparent. Get your act together unless you want politicians to do it for you.