YouTube is among the platforms working to remove copies of a 26-minute video that endorses dangerous, debunked COVID-19 conspiracy theories.
The video, a section of upcoming documentary Plandemic, was uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo on May 4 by filmmaker Mikki Willis. (His YouTube channel has 31K subscribers and gets less than 1,000 views per month.) In it, he interviews vaccine conspiracist Dr. Judy Mikovits, who specializes in virology and formerly worked as a research scientist for the National Cancer Institute.
Mikovits echoes a number of coronavirus claims that have been circulating on social media platforms, including: that everyone who’s ever gotten a flu vaccine has been injected with myriad coronaviruses, and that wearing a face mask “activates” those dormant viruses, making people sick (no); that people should be going to the beach (please don’t) because there are “sequences” and “healing microbes” in the soil, sand, and ocean; and that COVID-19 death tolls are significantly overinflated because doctors are being paid to falsely attribute deaths to the virus (no). She also claims hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment (it’s probably not), and that the virus must be lab-made because it could not have occurred naturally (it probably did).
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“The game is to prevent the therapies until everyone is infected, and push the vaccines knowing that the flu vaccines increase the odds by 36% of getting COVID-19,” she concludes. (All of that is inaccurate.)
The Plandemic clip spread from YouTube and Vimeo to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, where it collectively racked up millions of views and became a trending topic. Platforms appear to have begun removing it May 6 or 7, with most citing policies against content that could cause imminent harm.
A YouTube spokesperson tells Tubefilter the platform took down Willis’ video because it is removing content “that includes medically unsubstantiated diagnostic advice for COVID-19.” It also removes reuploads of the content if “they contain segments that we deem to be violative of YouTube’s Community Guidelines.”
“From the very beginning of the pandemic, we’ve had clear policies against COVID-19 misinformation,” the platform added. That’s true: YouTube has been dealing with conspiracy theories and fake-cure hawking since January, and has enacted several new policies to deal with misinformation.
Vimeo also pulled the video, telling The Washington Post that it “stands firm in keeping our platform safe from content that spreads harmful and misleading health information.”
Facebook (and subsidiary Instagram) took it down and is targeting reuploads because “suggesting that wearing a mask can make you sick could lead to imminent harm.” Facebook has also flagged the theories Mikovits expressed and lowered their rank in users’ daily feeds, so they’ll have a slimmer chance of showing up–and when they do, users will see an indication that they’re false.
Twitter, meanwhile, told the Post that it has removed the hashtags #PlagueofCorruption and #PlandemicMovie from its searches and trends sections. Users based in the U.S. who try searching for those hashtags are being directed to factual information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Willis appears to have anticipated the pushback against Plandemic, as one of his closing remarks in the clip is the claim that “big tech platforms…shut everything down” and that “there is no dissenting voices allowed anymore in this ‘free’ country.”
While platforms struggle to contain reuploads of the Plandemic clip, Mikovits’ other content has continued to spread. She’s been interviewed by two YouTubers, Patrick Bet-David (2.27 million subscribers) and reporter Christina Aguayo (44.6K), and her book, Plague of Corruption, is currently the No. 1 bestseller on Amazon.