Catastrophe

I have always considered being a bit of a catastrophist an important part of my mental hygiene. This started in my undergraduate days when I took a lot of classes in probability and statistics. The most important word in the question “What could possibly go wrong?” was “possibly” rather than “wrong.”

My mathematical imagination failed me in the early years of social media. I could not see how Twitter and Facebook and YouTube could possibly provide nests for Nazis or White Supremacists. Or anti-vaxxers.

I had no excuse, having studied zines, the precursor of today’s blogs, for years in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I had a large library of hate and ignorance. I should have known these authors and their progeny would fly to new media platforms.

The website Healthline.com has just published an article called “How Major Tech Companies Are Handling Anti-Vaccine Content.” Its tone is perhaps more optimistic than is warranted by the facts, and by the histories of some of these companies.

Earlier this month, the American Medical Association issued a public letter to the CEOs of Amazon, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.

The central questions posed to tech companies: How are these platforms spreading anti-vaccination rhetoric and what, if anything, is being done to stop it?

“While misinformation is spread in many different ways, we know that social media is a leading source of how Americans are getting their information today,” AMA President Dr. Barbara L. McAneny, told Healthline.

McAneny explained why experts are worried that more and more parents than ever before get health information from social media.

“We are concerned that the proliferation of this type of health-related misinformation will undermine sound science, further decrease vaccinations, and persuade people to make medical decisions that could spark the spread of easily preventable diseases,” she said.

Pinterest is blocking “vaccination-related searches.” Amazon’s removing some anti-vaccination titles. YouTube’s “demonetizing” anti-vax videos and channels. Read the whole article here. Pray for the best.

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