Anti-Vaxxer Groups Growing On Facebook And Instagram In Coronavirus Pandemic

The post performed better than previous ones. It was shared more than 1,500 times on Facebook and had hundreds of comments tagging other users.

In fact, many of Winterstein’s posts have been performing well during the pandemic. Her overall engagement (shares, likes and comments) on Facebook has been improving month on month, with nearly four times more engagement in April than in February. Her monthly follower growth has increased fivefold to more than 1,500 new followers in April. And she’s been using those posts to encourage people to take real world action, like deploying pseudo-legal tactics against politicians.

Other anti-vaxxer individuals and groups have been capitalising on the coronavirus, using the attention to find new audiences and galvanise existing supporters.

A BuzzFeed News analysis of 36 of Australia’s biggest and most prominent anti-vaxxer Facebook pages and Instagram accounts, using social media analytics tool CrowdTangle, revealed that anti-vaxxers have increased their posting frequency, follower count and monthly engagements since February this year.

And these groups continue to use their growing platform to spread false, misleading and dangerous information about vaccines and the coronavirus, despite the platform’s plans to stop them.

A spokesperson for Facebook said the company removes COVID-19 misinformation when it contributes to “imminent physical harm” (such as false cures or claims that social distancing doesn’t work) and blocks popular health-misinformation hashtags such as #vaccinescauseautism. The company’s third-party fact checkers can also label posts as containing false information, which limits their reach but allows them to remain on the platform.

Twelve major anti-vaccination Facebook pages tracked by BuzzFeed News have almost doubled their monthly engagement from 117,000 in February to 212,000 in April, and 294,000 in May thus far. These groups have collectively added more than 18,000 followers in this time.

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