A few days ago, a filmmaker in Southern California published his newest production on Facebook and YouTube and let the social media platforms do what they’ve been built for: make his video go viral.
In just a matter of days, the 26-minute long video had spread so much amassing millions of views and attracting legions of new fans. The title of the video is “Plandemic,” seeming to look like a documentary of facts, with well-shot interviews intercut with news footage and ominous music. However, the video promotes conspiracy theories surrounding coronavirus, which could push viewers to flout public health recommendations or attempt inefficient or dangerous medication for the virus.
Not long after, the social media platforms where the video was published vowed to stop the spread of the video. They’re now in a battle to ensure that new copies of the video is stopped. Links to or versions of the video were still available on Facebook and YouTube, As of the time of this article’s publication
Medical misinformation have gone viral on major social media platforms for years, especially around vaccine safety. The platforms have pledged to fully enforce misinformation policies, however, the task is easier said than done for companies whose services are designed to allow users to reach large numbers of viewers with little oversight. But the coronavirus crisis has been a fertile ground for conspiracy theorizing, inspiring viral videos spinning tales of international intrigue and profiteering cabals since nearly its inception.
The “Plandemic” video focuses on the interviews with a researcher named Judy Milkovits, who made false allegations that wealthy people are responsible for spreading the novel coronavirus intentionally to increase the rates of vaccination in the population at large and that viral symptoms can actually worsen from wearing a mask.
In a recent statement, a spokesperson from Facebook explained that the company was working on removing the video from Facebook and Instagram and rejecting ads that include the video, as part of their measures to squash COVID-19 related misinformation and half-truths that could lead to potential harm. In mid-April, the company wrote in a blog post that it had directed more than 2 billion people to fact-checking information from the World Health Organization to try and combat misinformation about the pandemic.
“Suggesting that wearing a mask can make you sick could lead to imminent harm,” a Facebook representative said when asked about the “Plandemic” video response, “so we’ve removed the video.”
YouTube has also posted notices on the uploads of the video that state: “This video has been removed for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines.” Other popular video platforms like Vimeo has also said that it is working to remove the video, and Twitter has been blocking hashtags and search related to the video.
The filmmaker behind the video, Mikki Willis, is listed as founder and chief executive on the website of Elevate, an Ojai, Calif.,-based production company. Willis on Facebook has a large following. In recent weeks, he asked his followers to vote on a name for his newest video (other candidates included “The Oath” and “The Invisible Enemy”), and published long posts claiming to connect the WHO with conspiracy theories surrounding the Council on Foreign Relations and the recent death of Jeffrey Epstein.
The video’s spread was amplified by online anti-vaccine conspiracy theory activists, according to coverage in the MIT Technology Review. When YouTube began removing copies of the video on Thursday, supporters took to Twitter to express their outrage, making the video’s title a trending topic, fueling further attention.