Black doctors combat COVID-19 misinformation on Clubhouse
Clubhouse trolls are reportedly harassing these doctors and accusing them of being part of a wider conspiracy to push vaccines.
Clubhouse, the invitation-only app that gained massive traction towards the end of 2020, was hailed as a fun way to chat and connect with friends when it initially launched in early 2020. But since the COVID-19 vaccine has become more available, its shortcomings are bring brought to light.
For one, unlike Facebook and Twitter, Clubhouse does not have a hand in regulating its content. Regular users who create its “rooms” are the ones with the power to control the information that is being disseminated — whether it’s true or not.
Now, a host of Black doctors are frantically working overtime on the app to try to combat the rampant misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine. According to Bloomberg, Dr. Daniel Fagbuyi, an ER doctor who has been on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19, makes sure to get on the app whenever he can.
“I do my shift, wash my face, change my clothes and then get on the app,” said Fagbuyi.
In January, comic actress Tiffany Haddish came under fire for allegedly bullying a Black doctor who was discussing the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine on Clubhouse. According to Madame Noire, she and other moderators in a Clubhouse room were spreading misinformation about the vaccine to a huge number of listeners.
Fagbuyi and doctors like him enter rooms to try and offer facts and speak reason to the conspiracy theorists, but also create new spaces for intelligent discussions about the vaccine.
Erin Shields, a national field organizer for the non-profit organization Media Justice, contends that “Black people are acting as first responders in the disinformation crisis.” In the process, these doctors and science advocates are being harassed and accused of being a part of a wider government conspiracy.
The accusations aren’t stopping them, though. As has been widely reported, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Black Americans. According to APM Research Lab, one in 645 Black people in the U.S. has died from the virus.
According to Renee DiResta, a research manager at Stanford’s Internet Observatory, “The experience is like talk radio meets chat room, and while there’s counter-speech, there’s also a vague moderation policy. But as the experiences of these doctors show, counter-speech can be powerful.”
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