Antivaccine activists attack Allison Hagood using Facebook

Allison Hagood is a professor of psychology and a public advocate for science and public health, particularly vaccines. She co-authored the book, “Your Baby’s Best Shot: Why Vaccines Are Safe and Save Lives” (with co author Stacy Mintzer Herlihy and a foreword by Paul Offit, MD). Recently, antivaccine activists attack Allison Hagood using Facebook to push their agenda.

Hagood is very active in social media, administering several Facebook pages, including the Anti Vax Wall of Shame (AVWoS), a page created to document, track and mock comments made by anti-vaccine activists. In the past, AVWoS has been the target of concerted attacks from anti-vaccine activists, and these attacks continue today. It has not let up for over a year.

Last month, Facebook banned Ms. Hagood for 30 days, for posting an image that “violates community standards”.  The image, with a caption Allison added, is shown below.  This was her third ban in a row.

Antivaccine activists attack Allison Hagood

Antivaccine activists attack Allison Hagood

 

The original image, shared widely on Facebook by those who revile Ms. Hagood (shown above), is a photograph of Ms. Hagood’s green-tinted face photoshopped into a still of the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. The original caption reads, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!”  (The original image is gone. This image is one created by Prof. Hagood with the caption Created by an anti-vaxxer who is harassing me in multiple forums”).

For posting this image, Ms. Hagood was banned from Facebook for 30 days.  It is likely, although impossible to prove, that the image was reported by the anti-vaccine activist who created the original image.

If the image violates community standards, the violation is not Ms. Hagood’s but the individual who created the image.  Banning Ms. Hagood for reposting it is inappropriate.

In a discussion on Facebook (see screenshot below), a team of anti-vaccine activists wrote:

Antivaccine activists attack Allison Hagood

Anti-vaccine activist #1:Actually A hag’s (sic – the anti’s nickname for Allison) main account is about to come off a 30 day suspension, and I have just the comment to report that will extend it another 30 day
Anti-vaccine activist #2: [image of  laughing squirrel with HAHAHA]
Anti-vaccine activist #3: Dahahahaa
Anti-vaccine activist #4: Go for it!
Anti-vaccine activist #5: Go for it!

This use of Facebook comes after a group of anti-vaccine activists, all connected to a very extreme group called Vaccine Resistance Movement did the following:

  1. Started an online petition to Ms. Hagood’s employer requesting disciplinary action or termination.
  2. Repeatedly reported Allison to her school for her online activities, trying to get her fired.
  3. Posted her private address online.
  4. Emailed people she knows.
  5. Created a web site, the purpose of which is solely to harass Ms. Hagood.
  6. Repeatedly sent her insulting or threatening message. Here is an example:

Antivaccine activists attack Allison Hagood

This is in addition to the usual petty online harassment – name calling, slurs, and making insulting images, like:

Antivaccine activists attack Allison Hagood

(Editor’s note–generally, using images that attempt to link an innocent person to Hitler or Nazism is a form of anti-Semitism, and is considered hate speech).

Independently, Allison has received rape and death threats. It’s unclear if that’s related to the same people.

Allison and I have a very different style of engagement. Her approach to anti-vaccine activists is harsher and much more aggressive. She curses, she mocks and sometimes goes out of her way to insult people.

As much as I respect and admire her, Ms. Hagood and I  have had disagreements on matters of ethics.

Allison expects and deals with the pushback with aplomb, and nothing scares her. When it comes to verbal attacks I generally don’t worry about Ms. Hagood; she can deal with any opponent. When it comes to name calling and mocking, I expect and trust her to be able to deal with as much – and more – as she dishes out.

Trying to get someone fired repeatedly isn’t name calling (editor’s note – nor is it an ad hominem, since Ms Hagood has ALL of the high quality evidence in favor of her statements).

Emailing colleagues, friends and family isn’t name calling.

Falsely reporting someone to Facebook for something you yourself did isn’t name calling.

Posting someone’s private address online isn’t name calling.

Phone threats are not name calling.

These kinds of tactics cross a line into direct harassment. They are ugly, unjustified, and reflect badly on those who use them.



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Note to Allison’s attackers

 

If the only way you can deal with criticism and mocking is by going this far, you –

  1. Have no argument on the merits.
  2. Have no ethical standards.

This is all you have. Petty attacks. You are not worthy. Honestly, you are not worthy of  Ms. Hagood’s time, or my time, except for the need to spend the time to deal with the itch you left and take measures to avoid being stung again. You are not worthy of respect. And you are not worthy of being listened to.

Note to Facebook

 

Really, Facebook. Banning someone because they are reposting an image attacking them? Allowing your reporting system to be used like this is not to your credit.

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss
This article is by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy and the law. 

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.