In recent weeks, the vast majority of the most compromised social media posts containing misinformation about the coronavirus were from people who had stood out in questioning vaccines in the past year.
In July, right-wing commentator Candace Owens jumped on the misstatement of Britain’s science adviser. “This is shocking!” she wrote. “60% of people admitted to hospital with # COVID19 in England have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the government’s top scientific adviser.”
After scientific advisor Patrick Vallance corrected himself, Ms Owens added the correct information at the end of her Facebook post. But the post was liked or shared more than 62,000 times (two-thirds of its total interactions) in the previous three hours. its update, an analysis from the New York Times found. In total, the rumor garnered 142,000 likes and shares on Facebook, most of them coming from Ms. Owens’s post, according to a Project Virality report, a consortium of disinformation researchers from teams like the Stanford Internet Observatory and Graphika.
When contacted for comment, Ms. Owens said in an email: “Unfortunately, I am not interested in The New York Times. People who follow me don’t take your hit pieces seriously. “
August 9, 2021 at 9:20 pm ET
Also in July, Thomas Renz, a lawyer, appeared in a video claiming that 45,000 people had died from coronavirus vaccines. The claim, since discredited, it’s based on unverified information from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a government database. The unfounded claim was included in a lawsuit that Mr. Renz filed on behalf of an anonymous “whistleblower,” in coordination with Frontline Doctors of the United States, a right-wing group that spread misinformation about the pandemic in the past.
Renz’s video garnered over 19,000 views on Bitchute. The unfounded claim was echoed by major Spanish-language Telegram channels, Facebook groups, and the conspiracy website Infowars, which collected more than 120,000 views on the platforms, according to the Virality Project.
In an email, Mr. Renz said his practice had “performed the necessary due diligence” to believe the accuracy of the allegations in the lawsuit he had filed. “We don’t actually believe that the Biden administration is responsible for this, rather we believe that President Biden, like President Trump before him, was duped by the same group of conflicting bureaucrats,” Renz said.