ADHD prescriptions via TikTok, pro-life groups in Tennessee target IVF and Twitter’s blue check trolls
TWITTER TROLLS’ LIES NOW COME WITH A BLUE CHECK
Twitter has become perceptibly more troll-ridden since the Elon Musk takeover. That’s backed up by the stats, of course — over 50,000 tweets bombarding the platform with hate-filled content showed up within just a few hours of the billionaire taking control. By now, if you use the platform regularly, you will likely have noticed it yourself, with fights breaking out left, right and center and digital dumpster fires fed with more than usual regularity onto your timeline.
One furious dialogue that’s blown up this week is over the price of insulin. It all started when an account with zero followers, but an all-important blue checkmark, posing as pharma giant Eli Lilly, made a false claim. “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.” It was a particularly painful lie — for a single vial of Eli Lilly’s product (of which many diabetes patients require 3-4 a month), it costs $274 in the U.S., and prices continue to skyrocket.
It means some diabetics are forced to ration other necessities like food in order to afford their insulin. Companies like Lilly have been roundly accused of price gouging — so the fake tweet created false hope for real people in a desperate situation. That blue checkmark, formerly only available to verified accounts of public figures and organizations, but now available to anyone for $8, meant the tweet was much more likely to dupe people. “We apologize to those who have been served a misleading message from a fake Lilly account,” the company tweeted.
Climate disinformation on Twitter has also proliferated during COP27. At one point, searching for “climate” on the platform brought up suggestions for #climatescam above any other results. On Wednesday, a new kind of climate troll showed up on Twitter. With an American eagle for a profile picture and another freshly-purchased blue check, the user began tweeting climate disinformation, claiming that “the Earth has been in a global cooling trend since 2016” and that “there were fewer climate deaths in 2021 than any year in recorded history. Most lame existential crisis ever.” Of course, these tweets would be of very little consequence prior to Musk’s takeover — but that all-important blue checkmark lent them a sheen of respectability.
“An anonymous troll has bought himself a blue check and is merrily spreading climate disinformation. Yet we persevere: because everyone – including everyone here on Twitter – needs to know that climate change is real,” tweeted Nature’s chief scientist Katharine Hayhoe.
IN GLOBAL NEWS
An Australian lobby group has conducted an anti-environmentalism blitz on Facebook during COP27. Advance Australia, which describes itself as a group fighting “stupid laws and woke ideologies like ‘net zero,’” has paid for at least a dozen Facebook adverts attacking climate policy, reaching an audience of millions. The group’s Facebook page has nearly 100,000 followers and pumps out a concoction of anti-woke talking points alongside anti-environmentalism rhetoric. The group sees itself as promoting Australia’s Judeo-Christian heritage and opposes the teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools. In one recent article posted on its website it described Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg as a “nutjob” and told her to “go back to Sweden”.
On TikTok, telemedicine startups are advertising ADHD medication. There’s an irony to this — TikTok’s recommendation algorithm is designed to keep you scrolling, drawing you further into the rabbit hole and away from whatever else you’re doing. It’s intended to keep you perpetually distracted. So it’s obviously the perfect platform to advertise ADHD pills. “When you start getting your ADHD medication, suddenly all those voices in your head are gone,” one advert runs. Neurodiversity runs in my family and I — along with most of my relatives — display many of the characteristics of ADHD. I’ve never gotten a diagnosis, though, because it’s a long and arduous process to go through the U.K. National Health Service’s referral system. But in the U.S., it’s a different story. Just chat to one of those TikTok telemedicine outlets for half an hour and they can issue you a remote prescription without the hassle of having to see a psychiatrist. No surprise, then, that there’s an Adderall shortage right now — and some experts are questioning whether ADHD is being over-diagnosed.
Anti-abortion groups, having pushed for years to get Roe v. Wade overturned, aren’t done yet. A leaked recording of a strategy session between Tennessee lawmakers and major anti-abortion groups shows that the lobbyists have IVF and contraception in their crosshairs in the coming years. “Maybe your caucus gets to a point next year, two years from now, three years from now, where you do want to talk about IVF, and how to regulate it in a more ethical way,” Stephen Billy, the vice president of state affairs for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told lawmakers. Fertility treatments lead to the destruction of numerous non-viable embryos — which is why some of the most extreme campaigners who call themselves “pro-life” rally against IVF treatments. The Tennessee state representative Ryan Williams has asserted that doctors discarding non-viable embryos are breaking the law and could be liable for criminal charges under Tennessee’s new Human Life Protection Act. The Tennessee attorney general said earlier this month that disposal of fertilized embryos not transferred to the womb isn’t punishable as a criminal abortion. But the leaked recordings suggest that such an outcome may not be far away.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Do check out the ProPublica investigation, which takes us inside that anti-abortion meeting with Tennessee’s GOP lawmakers. The leaked recording, writes Kavitha Surana, “provides the clearest examples yet of the strategy that the law’s architects are pursuing to influence legislators and the public amid growing national concerns that abortion bans endanger women’s health care and lives.”