How The Plandemic Consipracy Spread

Chart: Plandemic Interactions

The New York Times conducted an examination of how the debunked Plandemic conspiracy theory video went viral.

The reporting compares the conspiracy video with several other pieces of content that went viral during the same time period:

  1. Taylor Swift’s announcement that she would air her City Of Lover concert live on television,
  2. The cast of The Office reuniting for a Zoom wedding, and
  3. The Pentagon’s release of three UFO videos.

The Times reports:

On Facebook, “Plandemic” was liked, commented on or shared nearly 2.5 million times, according to the CrowdTangle data. That far outdid Ms. Swift’s May 8 announcement about her “City of Lover” concert, which plateaued at about 110,000 such interactions on Facebook. “The Office” cast’s Zoom wedding video, which was posted on May 10, reached 618,000 interactions in less than a week. And the Pentagon’s videos, which were posted on April 27, had one million interactions two weeks after the first post.

How the ‘Plandemic’ Movie and Its Falsehoods Spread Widely Online

The article details the chronology of the spread of the video:

  • It was first posted in a QAnon (a lunatic right-wing conspiracy) Facebook group of 25,000 members, with more than 1500 of those members sharing the video to their networks.
  • Dr. Christiane Northrup, a celebrity physician and vaccine skeptic shared it to her Facebook page, more than 1000 of her followers shared it, many to anti-vaxxer groups.
  • The video was then posted to a Re-Open Alabama Facebook page with more than 36,000 followers. The Re-Open Alabama is one of a network of similar sites among the 50 states and is part of an organized, right-wing astroturf propaganda campaign.
  • Nick Catone, a professional mixed martial arts fighter and prominent anti-vaccine crusader, shared it with his 70,000 followers on Facebook.
  • And then Melissa Ackison, an Ohio Republican primary losing candidate, shared it with her 20,000 Facebook followers.
  • By then, the mainstream media had begun to fact-check and debunk the video.
Segment from Episode 309 of the Beyond Social Media Show

Episode Transcript

David Erickson: Did you see or see a sharing of the Plandemic conspiracy theory video?

BL Ochman: Uh-huh, I read about it. I didn’t watch it, but I know all about it. Yeah.

How The Debunked Plandemic Conspiracy Video Went Viral From One Facebook Post

David Erickson: Yeah. So the New York Times does a great in-depth story by Sheera Frenkel, Ben Decker and Davey Alba on how it spread, on how that video went viral. I had seen it in my Facebook feed, and some people that I know had shared it. So what they did with the article–they compared how the Plandemic video compared to other videos that went viral or other content that went viral during the same period.

And so on Facebook, Plandemic was liked, commented on or shared nearly 2.5 million times.

Compared To Viral Content By Taylor Swift, The Office Reunion & Pentagon UFO Videos

David Erickson: And that’s compared to Taylor Swift’s May eight announcement about her City of Lover concert, which plateaued at about 110,000 interactions on Facebook.

And then there was The Office reunite on Zoom for a wedding, which was posted on May 10, and reach 618,000 interactions.

And the Pentagon had released videos–UFO videos on April 27, and had one 1 million interactions. So comparatively, that’s how they stacked up.

They also had a timeline of how it went viral. So it was first posted in a QAnon Facebook group of 25,000 members QAnon is this lunatic right-wing conspiracy group. And then more than 1500 of those members shared the video to their networks.

Then there was a physician named Dr. Christiane Northrup, who is a celebrity physician. She’s vaccine skeptic. She shared it on her Facebook page and more than 1000 of her followers shared it, many of them to antivaxxer groups.

And then the video was posted to Reopen Alabama Facebook group which had more than 36,000 followers. And that’s part of a network of Reopen-insert-your-state-here, groups that’s organized by a right-wing astroturf group and that spread to the political realm.

There’s a guy named Nick Catone–I think is how you pronounce it–he’s a professional mixed-martial arts fighter, celebrity, prominent antivaxxer. He shared it with his 70,000 followers on Facebook.

And then a candidate for Ohio…for the Ohio Republican Party primary–she lost–her name is Melissa Ackison…shared it to her 20,000 Facebook followers. And by then it went mainstream and BuzzFeed was reporting on it; in fact checking it, debunking it.

But you can see how it goes from conspiracy–major, lunatic fringe conspiracy theory groups–to other interested…antivaxxers, political groups, etc, etc. So it’s a good long read put a link to it in the show notes.

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