Social media companies including YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook are removing a viral conspiracy theory video because of its claims regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
The roughly 26-minute video was presented as an extremely long “trailer” for a full-length film titled “Plandemic,” and features an extended interview with Judy Mikovits, a well-known figure in the anti-vaccine movement, who has made various discredited claims about the effects of vaccines.
A YouTube spokesperson said the company removes “content that includes medically unsubstantiated diagnostic advice for COVID-19,” which includes the “Plandemic” video. A rep for Facebook said, “Suggesting that wearing a mask can make you sick could lead to imminent harm, so we’re removing the video.”
A Vimeo spokesperson said the company “stands firm in keeping our platform safe from content that spreads harmful and misleading health information. The video in question has been removed by our Trust & Safety team for violating these very policies.”
Twitter responded to The Post by stating that a tweet from Mikovits sharing a different video interview of hers does not violate its COVID-19 policy, but that the company has removed the hashtags #PlagueofCorruption and #PlandemicMovie from its searches and trends sections.
The video makes the false claim that billionaires aided the spread of coronavirus to further the spread of vaccines. It also attacks the credibility of Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, by using out-of-context footage of him speaking at White House press briefings. Finally, it makes the baseless and dangerous claim that wearing masks is harmful.
By the time it was removed from Facebook, it had racked up “1.8 million views, including 17,000 comments and nearly 150,000 shares,” Digital Trends reported.
Conspiracy theories have flourished during the global pandemic, partially due to the basic human discomfort with uncertainty, according to various experts interviewed by The Post.
Many times, “These are recycled from earlier conspiracy theories,” noted Mike Wood, a psychologist and expert on belief in conspiracy theories who studied the spread of misinformation during the Zika outbreak in 2016. “In a pandemic, there’s immediately going to be conspiracy theories that the virus is either harmless, a bioweapon that’s going to kill everybody or an excuse for the government to give a vaccine that is going to kill everybody.”
Social media companies have struggled to fight misinformation, particularly in the wake of the pandemic.
“Facebook said it has labeled the inaccuracies and lowered their rank in users’ daily feeds,” wrote The Washington Post’s Tony Romm, adding that Twitter has “started steering U.S. users searching for coronavirus-related hashtags to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
And as MIT Technology Review’s Abby Ohlheiser wrote, “As COVID-19 took hold, YouTube introduced specific policies prohibiting videos that question the transmission or existence of the disease, promote unsubstantiated cures, or encourage people to ignore official guidance.”