Stirling MP Concerned Over Social Media Vaccine Disinformation

Published:

Categories: Coronavirus (COVID-19), SNP Scottish Government, Telecommunications

Local MP Alyn Smith has written to Facebook’s UK leadership, after concerned constituents got in touch over targeted Facebook adverts full of disinformation on Scotland’s vaccination programme.

The ads from the @ScotVaxFacts Facebook page have led to outrage, as it shares dubious claims seeking to undermine the Scottish Government’s vaccine rollout programme as well as purporting to be a ‘service’. Information provided by Facebook demonstrates links between those who took out and paid for the advertising, prominent UK-political parties and public relations organisations. 

Whilst online ‘astro-turfing’ campaigns through social media have been increasingly observed in global democracies, specific campaigns in Scotland have also recently come to light. 

The term relates to campaigns waged by political groups and media organisations, designed to emulate grassroots, organic public engagement in order to sway genuine voters and citizens. Often large sums of money are attached to such efforts, as well as the alleged involvement of both state and non-state actors.

The situation during the pandemic has reached such lows that the World Health Organisation released a joint-statement in September 2020, calling on nations to take active steps to mitigate the harm caused by such tactics.

Alyn Smith MP said:

‘We should all take disinformation extremely seriously. In a democracy it’s entirely legitimate to disagree with your political rivals and express a plurality of views on how to tackle the big issues of the day. What must be entirely unacceptable is to spread mistruths, disinformation and lies regarding one the biggest health challenges Scotland’s faced in a generation.’

‘Covid-19 is real, people are tragically dying and health services are under immense pressure. No, the Scottish Government is not working with global billionaire elites to plant 5G microchips into people’s arms. No vaccines are not being hoarded and destroyed. The fact this even needs to be refuted stands testament to the depths to which online civil discourse has fallen.

‘Social media companies like Facebook, whether we or they like it or not, now have significant responsibilities in safeguarding democracy and civic society. They act as the civic spaces of our digital lives, and it’s vitally important Scotland’s public discourse is protected from mistruths and lies dangerous to our collective fight against this virus.’

Notes:

WHO joint statement: https://www.who.int/news/item/23-09-2020-managing-the-covid-19-infodemic-promoting-healthy-behaviours-and-mitigating-the-harm-from-misinformation-and-disinformation