It’s likely that you’ve heard or even seen the viral conspiracy documentary, “Plandemic.” For those who have not, the 26-minute video makes outlandish claims that a group of elites were going to use the coronavirus and vaccines to enrich and empower themselves. The video also features Judy Mikovits, who echoes a large number of anti-vaxxer talking points. In short, the video spreads misinformation about COVID-19, which is harmful enough if it only reaches the normal, fringe conspiracy audiences. However, “Plandemic” exploded onto the internet for millions to see.
How does a video with blatantly false claims gain so much traction? It all happened through the power of social media. Facebook groups and public figures with large followings played a large role in the spread of “Plandemic.” The video was commented on or shared over 2.5 million times in a matter of weeks. Let’s take a look at how this video became a damaging viral sensation.
Less than a day after the video was posted, a QAnon affiliated facebook group shared the video as “exclusive content” with their 25,000 followers. QAnon is a radical right wing conspiracy group that largely shares misinformation and conspiracy theories. The video was then shared over and over again on the individual facebook pages of some of QAnon’s followers.
After that, Dr. Christiane Northrup, a celebrity doctor, shared the post saying, “Just watched this. It’s all here.” Dr. Northrup has shared anti-vaccination information before and has many stark anti-vaxxer followers who also took her post and continued to spread it.
Another boost of visibility came from the video being posted in a Reopen Alabama facebook group with over 36,000 members. This group is also affiliated with other Reopen America groups where the video also continued to spread.
Other notable public figures shared the video with their large followings. Of those were Nick Catone, a professional MMA fighter, and Melissa Ackison, a Republican politician who recently lost the race for Ohio’s 26th District Senate seat.
In a matter of days, “Plandemic” had reached viral fame and news outlets began reporting on the video and it’s falsehoods. This led to scrutiny and fact-checking, which only fueled the fire for social media debates.
Finally, on May 7th, only 3 days after it was posted, both Facebook and YouTube removed the video for violating the platforms’ misinformation policies. By that time, the damage had already been done. The video’s claims and viral fame potentially will have a lasting impact on the opinions of hundreds of thousands of people.