“Thanks Ben!” Jack Dorsey tweeted last night at Ben Greenfield, a popular podcast host–who also happens to be an anti-vaccine advocate. Last month Greenfield tweeted (from his verified Twitter account) to his more than 70,000 followers the incorrect statement that “vaccines do cause autism,” and has spoken about the topic multiple times on his show.
Despite this, Dorsey recorded a yet-to-be released show with Greenfield, where they supposedly talked about “increasing one’s healthspan,” whatever that means. The responses to the Twitter CEO’s tweet are about what you’d expect:
Why are you giving a platform on your platform to someone who undermines @snopes & spreads misinformation about vaccines, one of the greatest public health successes in human history? https://t.co/5Mi4qQD2tk pic.twitter.com/Cbs54pnVWc
— Alex Howard (@digiphile) March 13, 2019
jack do you think vaccines cause autism
— jenn (@jennschiffer) March 13, 2019
I reached out to Twitter, and a spokesperson tells me that Dorsey was unaware of Greenfield’s anti-vaccine stance, and that the appearance was not an endorsement of his views. Dorsey considered Greenfield to be an expert and author on issues like health and longevity, according to the spokesperson.
Still, the incident highlights an increasingly problematic issue for popular online platforms. Misinformation runs rampant on places like Facebook and Twitter, and we’re now learning of the consequences this can bring. For instance, Washington State has declared a public emergency due to a measles outbreak, and cases have been reported in eleven other states, according to the CDC.
One of the reasons for this profound rise is likely false facts being promulgated online. On Facebook, for instance, the Daily Beast found over 150 ads placed on the platform with anti-vaccine propaganda being targeted at women over the age of 25. In response, Facebook has pledged to crack down on the anti-vaccine content. So too has Pinterest.
Twitter has yet to discuss the anti-vaccine issue head on, but the spokesperson points to the company’s ad policy. Ads that make claims about the cure, treatment, diagnosis, or prevention of certain diseases and conditions are restricted under the company’s Healthcare policy, the spokesperson explains. Content considered inflammatory, provocative, or likely to evoke a strong negative reaction is prohibited under the company’s Inappropriate Content policy. And, campaigns that attempt to artificially manipulate the conversation aren’t allowed because of rules prohibiting platform manipulation.
All the same, if there’s one lesson to learn from this ordeal (beyond not spreading anti-vaccine propaganda), it’s to do proper research about the program on which you’re participating.