Graham conducted research in November and early December, misinformation about Covid spiked on Twitter after the platform lifted a ban on misleading health information. Since January 1, Graham’s new analysis shows there have been over 326,000 tweets and retweets containing the words “suddenly died” or “#died suddenly”, with a peak of 5,000 in a single hour on January 3rd.
By reinstating suspended accounts, Musk signaled that Twitter is a safe place for malicious Covid conspiracy theories, Graham said.
Among those previously banned after sharing controversial Covid claims, vaccine critic and cardiologist Peter McCullough, who has since promoted the sudden death story on Twitter.
Twitter’s new approach to verifying accounts has also helped make the platform a “hotbed of misinformation,” according to the Center for Digital Hate (CCDH), which tracks disinformation. Prior to Musk’s arrival, users were given “verified” blue checkmarks if the company rated them as meaningful votes. In November, Twitter began to allow having a right users buy verification for $8 per month, giving them additional features and prioritization of conversations.
Before the takeover by Twitter partner with news organizations to identify misleading conversations, and the platform has highlighted notable information from trusted sources. Since then launched its “Community Notes” feature, which allows users to add context to tweets.
CCDH’s analysis of nearly 60,000 tweets posted since Nov. 9, when the new verification scheme went into effect. launchedand on December 12, 30% of Twitter Blue users’ messages containing the word “vaccine” were found to contain misinformation.
The paid blue checks may have helped boost the credibility of the accounts that helped spread the viral film. Died suddenly. The film was produced by Stew Peters, a right-wing radio personality known for spreading conspiracy theories, and premiered on November 21st. wide exposed, combined dozens of news reports of people who died unexpectedly with montages of people collapsing to claim that Covid vaccines are killing people en masse. Some of the deaths shown, including Gough’s, were clearly unrelated to vaccination. The film has been viewed over 2 million times on Twitter and many more posts have been linked to it on the secondary video platform Rumble.
While users can see how Twitter accounts have been ticked through their profiles, this is not immediately apparent when scrolling through the content. “When a piece of propaganda has a blue check mark next to it, people assume it is something that has at least achieved notoriety for its merit,” CCDH executive director Imran Ahmed told WIRED. “Died suddenly did not achieve fame on merit.
Peters did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment.
The #DiedSuddenly hashtag went viral on Twitter after the film’s release and now appears alongside tens of thousands of tweets about people dying.
QUT analysis showed that Died suddenly significantly influenced the spread of misinformation about Covid, creating a hub for other conspiracy theories and their supporters. According to Graham, the unhindered distribution of the film on Twitter creates a “snowball effect where networks of interconnected communities and false narratives become visible and begin to mobilize and grow exponentially.”