“Starting today, guests who show a valid COVID-19 vaccination card at any Krispy Kreme shop in the US can receive a free doughnut—anytime, any day, even every day—through the remainder of 2021,” the company wrote in a press release on Monday 22 March. Although many reacted positively to the announcement, some Twitter users have already blasted Krispy Kreme for “selling poison to people.” How will the offer work exactly and why is the company already receiving backlash?
Krispy Kreme announced on Twitter that it would “like to show sweet support to those who have received the COVID-19 Vaccine.” The chain announced that beginning this week, those who show their COVID-19 vaccination Record Card, which people receive after getting their vaccine, will score a free Original Glazed doughnut. The deal is set to run through 2021, and rather than being a one-time deal, the offer allows those who have been vaccinated to go back each day for a free doughnut.
For those of you who live in the UK, unfortunately, Krispy Kreme has precised on Twitter again that the offer will only be available in the US.
Krispy Kreme has also said that they will deliver doughnuts to healthcare workers who administer shots and give their own employees time off to go get the vaccine when they become eligible, The Hill reported.
Many Twitter users pointed out that obesity increases the risk of severe illness and death, and Krispy Kreme offering up free doughnuts was slightly contradictory. Others took issue with the fact that people are expected to show their COVID-19 vaccination Record Card, some even dubbing the offer a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The Daily Show tweeted: “If you don’t qualify yet, don’t worry. Krispy Kreme still offers affordable preexisting conditions,” while writer and podcaster Bridget Phetasy tweeted: “Obesity is one of the primary factors that affects your response to Covid and these fuckers are giving away a donut a day if you’re vaccinated. Everything is so dumb.”
Shortly after, many more complaints and criticism followed:
For many, the main issue was rooted in the fact that obesity is linked to severe illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “adults of any age with the following conditions,” including obesity, “are at increased risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19.”
According to Pop Culture, others were also upset that they would have to be vaccinated to receive the offer. A February poll released by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 15 per cent of survey respondents said they will “definitely” not get a coronavirus vaccine, with an additional 17 per cent stating that they will “probably not” get the vaccine.
In a statement to The Independent, Chelsea Michael of public relations firm FleishmanHillard said its client Krispy Kreme had introduced the initiative as a “gesture that we hope sweetens people’s lives as the country accelerates to put this virus behind us.”
Several other companies are offering similar deals, giving their workers paid time off to get the vaccine. Tyson, Target, Aldi, Trader Joe’s and McDonald’s are some examples of companies trying to incentivise their employees to get the shot.
Among the few that went against the backlash received by Krispy Kreme is CBS News White House reporter Kathryn Watson who wrote: “I see people on this website actually getting mad at Krispy Kreme for offering free donuts, like people have no agency and responsibility in their own decisions. Twitter is so dumb.”
A week ago, Twitter unveiled its new ‘Super Follow’ feature, which will allow users to charge followers $4.99 a month for extra content including subscriber-only newsletters, deals and discounts, and exclusive tweets if they choose to. Twitter users were quick to bash the OnlyFans and Patreon hybrid.
This week, the social media platform has made another move bound to upset some of its users; it is working on a new strike system that could lead to some users getting permanently banned for promoting vaccine misinformation.
Like Facebook just did mid-February, Twitter had also previously banned harmful anti-vaxxer propaganda aimed at the COVID-19 vaccines out of concern that it could make people more hesitant to get vaccinated. Now, the social media platform is adding more layers to its approach in order to make it more effective—a move that other platforms like Facebook and YouTube could certainly learn from.
On Monday 1 March, Twitter announced in a blog post that tweets deemed to be harmful misinformation will be subject to labels directing people to content curated by Twitter, public health resources, or the company’s rules. At the same time, users who continue to post such tweets will be subject to a strike policy. If a user posts too much vaccine misinformation and gets five strikes, their account could be permanently deleted from the app.
“Our goal with these product interventions is to provide people with additional context and authoritative information about COVID-19,” said the company. “Through the use of the strike system, we hope to educate people on why certain content breaks our rules so they have the opportunity to further consider their behavior and their impact on the public conversation.”
The new labels and strikes mentioned above have not yet been fully rolled out. First, Twitter says that labels will only be applied by human moderators, and will start with content in English. This will allow the social network to train its algorithms to make rulings on its own, a process that will take some time to develop. As Recode reported last year, Twitter’s automated labelling appeared to flag posts that weren’t misinformation because of keywords they used.
But labels and strikes are not the only punishment Twitter has to offer against vaccine misinformation. In late January, the social media platform also announced that it was developing a new tool called Birdwatch that’s designed to crowdsource expertise and beat back false narratives in a Wikipedia-like forum eventually connected to Twitter’s main app. The company, as it has throughout the pandemic, has been trying to elevate authoritative voices like Anthony Fauci’s to speak on vaccine-related issues. It’s also working with the White House to clamp down on vaccine misinformation.
But misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t stop at vaccines; Twitter also started applying labels to COVID-19 claims that it deemed misleading but not drastic enough for removal, such as the idea that 5G cellular networks were somehow related to it.
How well Twitter’s new policies will work in actually curbing vaccine misinformation remains to be seen. Experts have highlighted that not all content opposed to vaccines is framed in terms of factual claims, and experts have warned that simply taking down false information about vaccines isn’t always the best approach for curbing vaccine hesitancy, as we’ve seen previously with the US’ measles outbreak.