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T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T may be asked to screen anti-vax messages

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DNC, Biden allies want phone carriers to vet anti-vax messages: report

Fourth of July came and went, and with it, the goal of vaccinating 70% of the US adult population with at least a dose to reach a credible shot at herd immunity sans the consequences of a raging COVID-19 pandemic.

Not that a single dose does much against the new Delta variant that emerged from India when the pandemic was left to pass through the population there freely a few months ago, but it would’ve been a promising first step to a finished two-dose cycle that prevents prolonged hospitalizations or death.

In any case, the problem isn’t messaging but rather hitting the ceiling of people willing to vaccinate, and entering the uncharted territory of those who don’t for various reasons. Recognizing that this unwillingness often stems from disseminating misleading information via various communication channels to score political points, the White House apparently intends to introduce a multipronged approach to combat fake news when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, reports Politico.
Part of the problem is President Biden’s recent White House message that included the phrase “door-to-door” when it comes to renewed vaccination efforts. Needless to say, the administration’s opponents immediately seized on the opportunity and started disseminating text messages like the one from Charlie Kirk that read “Biden is sending goons DOOR-TO-DOOR to make you take a Covid-19 vaccine. Sign the petition to: No medical raids in America.”

Such messaging strategy twists draw a sharp rebuke from the White House whose spokeswoman Jen Psaki was forced to explain that the idea is to enroll grassroots organizations, volunteers, and respected members of the community to try and make the vaccination argument local instead of federal. 

White House spokesperson Kevin Munoz disclosed another aspect of the misinformation fight strategy yesterday: “We are steadfastly committed to keeping politics out of the effort to get every American vaccinated so that we can save lives and help our economy further recover. When we see deliberate efforts to spread misinformation, we view that as an impediment to the country’s public health and will not shy away from calling that out.” OK, but how?

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile anti-vax message screening

Well, apparently by working with all major communication channels like social and traditional media companies, and even the cell phone carriers, on screening misleading claims about vaccines. 

Yep, T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T may be asked to stop the spread of text messages like the one Charlie Kirk sent out, or the ones that numerous political operatives and action committees are shooting out. In conjunction with the grassroots campaign, the White House hopes, it could get its vaccination message across better and fight its misinterpreation.

This is members of the clergy, these are volunteers who believe that people across the country, especially in low-vaccinated areas, should have accurate information, should have information about where they can get vaccinated, where they can save their own lives and their neighbors’ lives and their family members’ lives,” added Jen Psaki.

One of these groups is the COVID Collaborative, co-founded by George W. Bush alum John Bridgeland, and he had the following strong words to point towards those trying to thwart their efforts to score political points: “It’s completely illogical and it’s potentially a death sentence. It’s being coordinated by people who have platforms and have an interest in bringing down the current administration.” 

If the White House asks the carriers to screen anti-vax messages indeed, it would be interesting to see how they’d comply and which tools and fact checkers would be employed – ones provided by the White House, or they would have to put their own systems in place. Which would then be the trigger word(s) the algorithms will use to block messages, would it be done on a case by case basis, or they could send rebuttal messages. Quite a lot of questions.

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