Some Followers’ Recent Posts A Video Falsely Claiming COVID-19 Vaccine Will Kill People And Post Claiming Children Are Having Cancer.
If you took one look at the Facebook group Vaccines Exposed, it seemed clear what it was all about. It was “a group opposed to deadly vaccinations,” with over 13,000 members on a platform known to harbor anti-vaccination conspiracy theories. Some Of Its Followers’ Recent Posts Included A Video Falsely Claiming The COVID-19 Vaccine Will Kill People And A Post Claiming Children Are Having Cancer “injected into them. #facts.” Standard anti-vaxx fare.
It was so convincing, Facebook removed the group Friday for violating the site’s community standards. But Vaccines Exposed was really a “honeypot” group run by vaccine advocates hoping to attract the attention of anti-vaxxers and people on the fence. When those folks posted something that furthered the anti-vaxx cause, pro-vaxx members responded and tried to persuade them to question their beliefs. It wasn’t always a gentle exchange.
“In this community, there are people whose goal is purely to educate,” said David Litton, a pro-vaccine member who used a fake account to participate in Vaccines Exposed, and is a podcaster and Twitch stream host who covers conspiracy theories online. “Then there’s a spectrum between that and people who are just trying to dunk on anti-vaxxers for being stupid.”
For example, in response to that video falsely claiming the COVID-19 vaccine would kill people, one member asked why we aren’t seeing this in the thousands of trial participants, another queried why the original poster chose to trust individuals with no science background over experts, while yet another asked, referring to the original poster: “why do we allow these people to breed?”
These skirmishes between pro- and anti-vaccine users aren’t limited to Vaccines Exposed; all of Facebook is a battlefield. And while those confrontations aren’t unique to Facebook — the anti-vaxx movement is as old as vaccines themselves — the site has created an ecosystem that, intentionally or not, has allowed this battle to flourish. And while the social media giant has made efforts to curb the spread of misinformation, it hasn’t been enough to end the battle for hearts and minds. As the American public attempts the most extensive vaccination campaign in half a century, that battle is all the more relevant.
This news was originally published at Five Thirty Eight.