As the social media scroll has come to be a regular part of our daily routine - with some of us of us amassing a staggering amount of time on social platforms due to nothing else but a desire to look into the highlights reel of strangers and brief acquaintances - those who know a thing or two about self-promotion and selfies are capitalising on such digital addictions. It’s not surprising that most kids these days, when pushed, would describe the life of “influence” as a career aspiration, and what’s not to like? From the endless freebies to the steady stream of validation of likes, comments and shares, the picture is a rather captivating one. But if the global pandemic has illustrated one thing, it’s that online there is little regulation when it comes to the spread of misinformation. It goes without saying that outside of our own bubble, you can expect perspectives on all manner of topics to differ, but when it comes to the pandemic and vaccinations, no topic has proved more divisive.
Online, we’ve seen what becomes of the spread of misinformation. From Joe Rogan advising his listeners not to get the vaccine if they’re fit and seemingly healthy (something doctors have strongly discredited and proved false), to those purporting conspiracy theories regarding Covid-19 that range from Steve Jobs to George Orwell, the times we’re living in are certainly strange and something of a Wild Wild West in the online realm as anything goes. But given the seriousness of the situation we now find ourselves in and the rapid spread of the delta variant, the need to curtail misinformation has never been more important. As a result, a change.org petition has been launched calling on Instagram to de-platform Aussie influencers Taylor Winterstein and Anna-Rose Richards, both of whom have been promoting Covid conspiracy theories and anti-vaccination rhetoric to their combined 143,000 followers.
The petition, titled ‘Deplatform Anti-Vaxx Influencers - Taylor Winterstein, Anna Rose Richards’ reads: “The world has been devastated by Covid and we have all felt its impact. Over 4.5 million deaths with millions more suffering and with the highly infectious delta strain raging, we are still in the middle of it.”
It continues: “Most of us are supporting our doctors, nurses, scientists and essential workers who are literally putting their lives on the line to keep us safe. We are wearing our masks, keeping our distance, staying home and getting vaccinated. And even though it has been really challenging and exhausting, we know that we can get through this if we take care of each other as a community.”
Taking aim at the anti-vaxx influencers using their platform to spread misinformation, the petition adds: “Unfortunately, there are some people who are spreading misinformation, anti-vaccine opinions and Covid conspiracy theories.”
The petition calls out podcast host Anna-Rose and WAG Winterstein. Anna-Rose recently spread misinformation about a Chatswood boy dying after being vaccinated, which was debunked and also supported the anti-lockdown protests in an IGTV where she told her followers that the Covid numbers and stats are made up, encouraging her followers to start a “revolution.” She said, “When the numbers don’t add up, when the facts don’t lie, when the statistics are staring you in the face, it’s time to say enough is enough. There are times to be complicit and follow the rules, and there are times to use judgement, vision and truth to guide you to know what is actually right and take decisive action. That time is now.”
Winterstein attended the anti-lockdown protests in Sydney along with her NRL star husband, Frank Winterstein. She documented the day on Instagram, and also filmed police officers as they issued the couple with $1,000 in fines for attending the Covid protest.
“They must be held accountable,” the petition demands. “Instagram needs to remove their platforms. They should not be allowed to have this space to share their harmful views.” It seems many people agree with such sentiments, with the petition having amassed a staggering 4,122 signatures in just two days. It now has 7,144 at the time of writing, with the goal of reaching 7,500.