Melissa Zimdars

Alt‐health influencers and the threat of social media deplatforming

  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems

AbstractThe threat of deplatforming as a content moderation strategy works to reduce harmful anti‐vaccine content and health mis/disinformation on particular social media platforms. However, through an analysis of alt‐health influencers, I show how the perpetual threat of being deplatformed allows them to strategically grow their audiences while funneling users to fringe platforms where the alt‐health influencers share anti‐vaccine and extremist content. Alt‐health influencers are thus able to “launder” their reputations and their content through mainstream social media platforms, acting in accordance with each platform's specific content moderation policies, while persuasively deploying “deep stories” and developing parasocial relationships across mainstream and fringe platforms, building an alt‐health influence network across platforms, and using threats of “censorship” on one platform to sell and legitimize their statuses as truth‐tellers and informational authorities on another. The threat of deplatforming aids in the spreading of health mis/disinformation across social media platforms, demonstrating the necessity of addressing well‐known alt‐health influencers who are detrimental to the health of the overall information ecosystem through decisive, consistent, and multi‐platform‐coordinated deplatforming.

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