March 28, 2019
Twitter’s Jack Dorsey is a PR nightmare this week
While Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube are falling over themselves working to keep deadly anti-vaccination rumours and hoaxes from receiving the attention they so desperately seek, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey seems bent on doing the opposite.
Dorsey has been on a media rampage in recent weeks, sitting for interviews with a host of podcasters including author Ben Greenfield on Greenfield’s podcast. In relation to the latter, Dorsey tweeted (of course): “[I] appreciate all you do to simplify the mountain of research focused on increasing one’s healthspan! Grateful for you.”
It all seems innocent, until you factor in the reality that Greenfield, who has written a score of books about health and triathlons, is also a promoter of anti-vaccination hoaxes. “Vaccines do indeed cause autism,” he tweeted in early February, iterating that people shouldn’t trust the otherwise widely respected fact-checking service, Snopes, to get their news.
The ironically fact-resistant myth that vaccinations cause autism has been strongly refuted by the world’s top health organisations, and poses a real danger to children whose parents choose not to vaccinate them, as well as children too young to receive life-saving vaccinations. In several US states, a measles outbreak is currently on the rise, thanks in no small part to slack vaccination policies.
While Tweets promoting anti-vaccination myths are not against Twitter’s rules, the promotion of myths or hoaxes as an advertisement is clearly against the platform’s guidelines.
Dorsey’s line in response to the controversy is that he wasn’t aware of Greenfield’s distaste for vaccines, and neither was Twitter. The topic was not, apparently, a subject of discussion on the podcast in question.
Still, the optics are not good, and Dorsey’s tweet hailing Greenfield for his health expertise was still online and accessible by Dorsey’s 4.15 million followers up to four hours after it was first posted.
While it is possible that Dorsey wasn’t aware of Greenfield’s less-than-ideal medical advice, the fact that Greenfield’s anti-vaccine tweet is less than two months old suggests serious slacking on the part of his PR team. Endorsements by Dorsey no doubt carry substantial weight with the general public, adding to widespread concern that the CEO touted Greenfield as an expert on matters of health despite his opposition to vaccines.
This isn’t the first time Dorsey has shown little tact in using his own platform. Last year, he posted rave reviews about his visit to Myanmar to meditate, seemingly oblivious of the role social media has played in the country in facilitating an attempted genocide. He was called out, rightfully, for calling on people to visit while failing to acknowledge the country’s problems.