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Demonstrators take part in a March for Science in Toronto. / Image via Shutterstock

With the Mueller report officially wrapped, we’re reminded once again of the vast flood of misinformation and – yes – fake news, that overwhelmed the 2016 presidential campaign.

It sounded especially familiar this week because of a story we published about a single doctor who’s responsible for writing a third of all the medical vaccine exemptions kids have received in San Diego Unified.

Will Huntsberry noted that it was only when we were prepping to publish this story that the doctor in question removed some information from her website, including that she considers eczema, psoriasis and asthma conditions that would qualify a child to receive an exemption from vaccinations.

Indeed, falsehoods and misinformation are the backbone of the anti-vaccine movement.

NBC News reported last month on “the struggle that public health officials and advocates face as they attempt to provide information on vaccinations on social media, where anti-vaccination proponents have spent more than a decade building audiences and developing strategies that ensure they appear high in search results and automated recommendations.”

And after taking it on the chin over the last two years for its role in the 2016 spread of fake political news, Facebook announced earlier this month that “it’s diminishing the reach of anti-vaccine information on its platform,” Wired reported.

Of course, bad information is like a game of whack-a-mole – when one platform cracks down, it pops up somewhere else.

Many platforms like Facebook are working to eliminate all kinds of bad information – from anti-vaccine content to hate speech. So it’s migrating to Instagram. “Instagram is teeming with these conspiracy theories, viral misinformation, and extremist memes, all daisy-chained together via a network of accounts with incredible algorithmic reach and millions of collective followers,” the Atlantic reported this week.

That piece notes that “as of Tuesday afternoon, three of the top 12 Instagram posts featuring the hashtag #vaccines were promoting anti-vaccine messages.”

What VOSD Learned This Week

Four men say San Diego Unified Trustee Kevin Beiser harassed, groped or assaulted them. All of the men were young and politically ambitious – some were financially vulnerable as well. Beiser denies their allegations. Following our investigation, the San Diego County Democratic Party, local LGBTQ elected officials and Beiser’s school board colleagues called on him to resign.

***

Another single-room occupancy hotel is set to close, prompting another round of soul-searching over the future of what’s considered the lowest rung of the housing ladder.

Meanwhile, a Bay Area lawmaker has proposed a bill intended to spur new housing construction that would put San Diego’s coastal height limit on hold for 10 years. Assemblyman Todd Gloria and Sen. Toni Atkins – two outspoken housing advocates – said they’re wary of the proposal.

***

Credible sources inform me that though it feels like 150 years ago, it was in fact earlier this week that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to weigh in on San Diego’s pension reform case. Scott Lewis laid out what we know about what will happen now that San Diego has to sort out its own mess.

***

Last year, we revealed the SDPD was sharing data it collected from license plate readers with federal agencies across the country, including Border Patrol. It turns out, the department quietly stopped that practice a few months after our report.

One thing law enforcement still rarely shares with anyone – even as the devices have become the norm – is body camera footage.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“To state the obvious: While riding an e-scooter, you look like a huge dork. Catching my reflection in a store window, I wanted to beat myself up.” – This is an absolutely delightful piece about “the deepest ride into the wilderness on a startup e-scooter in human history.”

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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