COVID Disinformation Unleashed on Twitter

Melissa Fleming
2 min readNov 30, 2022


Dangerous lies are exploding on Twitter. Anti-vaxxers are among the many bad actors to have exploited the chaos around the platform’s now-paused subscription model, a brief experiment during which anyone was able to buy the blue tick previously reserved for verified accounts.

Though short-lived, the misstep has unleashed a tsunami of harmful content. I was dismayed to see malicious lies about the COVID vaccine trending on Twitter in recent days, driven by algorithms we know amplify sensationalist content — and reportedly also boost posts by blue-tick accounts.

Worse still, the platform has quietly said it will no longer enforce its policy about COVID misinformation — the policy aimed to stem the spread of dangerous lies on Twitter during the pandemic and to guide users to lifesaving health guidance. Cutting it is wildly irresponsible.

That’s because the infodemic isn’t over. COVID is no longer the threat it was, but only for the vaccinated. Almost two thirds of the world had one shot of COVID vaccine, and severe cases and deaths are down sharply as a result. This has allowed a return to normal life for most people.

Yet for vaccine holdouts, and those without access to vaccines, COVID is still proving deadly. COVID deaths are now overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated. That’s why the anti-vaxxer lies are so dangerous. We can’t afford any move to further entrench and legitimize this treacherous ideology.

Too many people remain unprotected due to misconceptions and misplaced fears based on lies they read online. For two years now, malicious online campaigns have undermined trust in vaccines around the world, feeding wild conspiracy theories about COVID, treatments, and health measures.

The world has come a long way in managing the pandemic. That’s why every preventable death from COVID is such a tragedy. Social media platforms must do more, not less, to remove the harmful lies that fuel them. Even before the latest developments at Twitter, we were already demanding better.

We are looking for ways to hold social media accountable for the spread of dangerous lies on their platforms. We want to see big changes to platforms so that they no longer host harmful content, including malicious anti-vaxxer disinformation. We will keep fighting for a more humane internet.

And, whatever happens next, the United Nations will continue to stand up for science. The world still needs to hear the facts about COVID, and the protection offered by the vaccines. We will keep sharing trusted, life-saving information to millions of social media followers. Lives are on the line.



Melissa Fleming

Chief Communicator #UnitedNations promoting a peaceful, sustainable, just & humane world. Author: A Hope More Powerful than the Sea. Podcast: Awake at Night.