• Bobby Woods

Facebook group 2.4 million from Africa, Middle East, and Asia Vaccine Conspiracy Theories go viral.

Arabic Covid-19 conspiracy theories are going viral on Facebook – and little is being done about them. Some of it is brazen: group names, when translated from Arabic, included phrases such as “Corona lie”, “Covid-19 conspiracy”, and “No vaccine Corona has not ended.”

Between January 1 and February 28, ISD researchers found 18 Facebook pages and ten groups sharing pandemic-related misinformation and conspiracy theories in Arabic. They had a combined following of more than 2.4 million people. “It was way too easy to find this content,” says Moustafa Ayad, ISD’s executive director for Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Facebook’s popularity in the Arab world has soared in recent years, with more than 164 million monthly active users being reported in 2019.

To get an idea of the scale of Facebook’s Arabic disinformation problem, Ayad and ISD analyst Ciaran O’Connor created a list of key pandemic-related words and searched for pages and groups that used them. Using CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned analytics tool, they then produced a snapshot of the most prominent communities, including groups with up to 100,000 members and pages with up to 650,000 followers.

Other conspiracy theories related to Gates that have gone viral in Arabic on Facebook include suggestions that people should “get ready for the Hunger Games.” For instance, one Facebook page with more than 288,000 likes and 450,000 followers is hosting at least two videos featuring interviews with conspiracy theorist David Icke.

Icke’s own channels were removed from Facebook in May 2020)

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