Debunking McGill’s “dirty dozen” hit piece: Flawed sources, pharma ties, and biased reporting
06/20/2024 // News Editors // Views

A McGill University article accusing 12 individuals of driving the majority of online anti-vaccine misinformation has come under fire after the study it relied on was directly refuted by Meta. The debacle raises serious questions about academic integrity, industry influence, and the politicization of the misinfo debate.

(Article republished from

McGill's Disinformation Debacle: Debunking the "Disinformation Dozen"

In March 2021, McGill University's Office for Science and Society published an article by Jonathan Jarry titled "A Dozen Misguided Influencers Spread Most of the Anti-Vaccination Content on Social Media."1 Citing a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), Jarry claimed that "two-thirds of anti-vaccine content shared or posted on Facebook and Twitter between February 1 and March 16, 2021, can be attributed to just twelve individuals."1,2

Among those named in this so-called "Disinformation Dozen" was Sayer Ji, founder of the natural health website Jarry painted Ji and the others as dangerous spreaders of "blatant and harmful misinformation" with outsized influence.1

However, a bombshell statement from Meta (formerly Facebook) has revealed fatal flaws in the CCDH report, calling into question McGill's uncritical endorsement of its claims and the legitimacy of Jarry's attacks on Ji and the other named individuals.

Debunked Data, Baseless Accusations

In August 2021, Meta's VP of Content Policy Monika Bickert directly refuted the CCDH's central claim, stating: "There isn't any evidence to support this claim. Moreover, focusing on such a small group of people distracts from the complex challenges we all face in addressing misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines."3

Bickert revealed that the CCDH report "analyzed only a narrow set of 483 pieces of content over six weeks from only 30 groups," arguing that this cherry-picked sample was "in no way representative of the hundreds of millions of posts that people have shared about COVID-19 vaccines in the past months on Facebook."She also highlighted the CCDH's lack of transparency in how it categorized content as "anti-vax" and selected the groups it analyzed.3

Despite relying heavily on the CCDH report, Jarry's article failed to critically examine these serious methodological issues, instead presenting the disinfo dozen narrative as established fact. This raises troubling questions about McGill's academic rigor and editorial standards.

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