Update (4/27/20): YouTube on April 24 took down the video, after it received nearly 7 million views and at least 1.2 million Facebook engagements, replacing it with a message saying, “This video has been removed for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines.”
An April 16 YouTube video suggesting the novel coronavirus is a “false flag” to force “mandatory vaccines” and microchips on people has quickly racked up millions of views despite the platform’s pledge to crack down on COVID-19 misinformation. The video also claims that both Bill Gates and 5G cell phone towers are somehow involved.
Last month, as the pandemic began to spread throughout the United States, YouTube wrote that it had “worked to prevent misinformation associated with the spread of the virus” and would “quickly remove videos that violate our policies when they are flagged, including those that discourage people from seeking medical treatment or claim harmful substances have health benefits.” YouTube has also pledged to crack down on some specific false conspiracy theories, such as that 5G is connected to the virus, which YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki mentioned in a CNN interview aired on April 19.
But on the evening of April 16, The Next News Network, a conspiracy theory YouTube channel with a history of pushing false and dubious claims, uploaded a video titled “EXCLUSIVE: Dr. Rashid Buttar BLASTS Gates, Fauci, EXPOSES Fake Pandemic Numbers As Economy Collapses.” The video features Dr. Rashid Buttar, who HuffPost noted is “a widely discredited osteopath” and has been using social media to spread falsehoods about the virus. In just four days, the video has already racked up more than 4.3 million views and more than 930,000 Facebook engagements, and the numbers continue to climb.
Toward the start of the video, host Gary Franchi described other videos Buttar has made, saying he has showed that there’s “fraud ... being perpetuated across the world by the World Health Organization, the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], Bill Gates, the deep state, the mainstream media,” and there’s “hysteria being perpetuated to scare the world population based on false data.”
Buttar proceeded to push multiple falsehoods and conspiracy theories throughout the video. He pushed the absurdly false claim that “nobody has yet demonstrated a single death from the actual virus” and also falsely said that “the number of deaths are still less than the seasonal flu.” Additionally, Buttar claimed the death count was being inflated, although experts agree the death total is likely being undercounted, and he claimed that there was fake activity at hospitals. Buttar also said “studies clearly show that if you've had a flu shot you're going to test positive for COVID-19,” which is another falsehood that has spread over social media.
Later in the video, Buttar accused White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci of being a “criminal” who’s committed “traitorous” activity and dubiously suggested that the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine had “at least 99% efficacy” in treating COVID-19, claiming that “they've shown hundreds and hundreds of patients have treated, nobody's died.” Buttar suggested the pandemic was a “false flag event to then mandate mandatory vaccines” and that people who refuse will be “considered as dissidents” and “shot in the head” or “quarantined in some kind of a concentration camp.” He also suggested that “5G towers” and “chemtrails” were related to the virus, and that increasing vaccines and 5G would cause people to become even more sick.
Buttar also referenced a false social media conspiracy theory involving Bill Gates to claim that future vaccinations will be monitored by putting “more RF chips in us to see who has had the vaccine” as part of “a cycle that they’re going to keep on going over and over again until they’ve got everybody digitized and they have RF chips in everybody.” He also called the CDC’s 6-foot social distancing recommendation “absolute garbage” and a ruse to “decide who … should be available to talk and work and who should be used as a dissident or classified as a dissident and made quiet.”
Buttar later expanded on his Gates conspiracy theory, accusing him of having a “depopulation agenda,” and claimed that hundreds of millions of people will be harmed by vaccines, but “they're going to blame it on the COVID-19.” He added that “anybody who says that vaccines are necessary, they either are completely 100% ignorant or they have a suspect agenda.” (Buttar also compared his Gates-microchip conspiracy theory to what happened in the Holocaust and then promoted a video about vaccines and eugenics from conspiracy theory outlet Infowars.)
On Facebook, the video has been shared in multiple groups opposing 5G technology and supporting the QAnon conspiracy theory, where users claimed the video was “right on point” and called coronavirus a “FAKE PANDEMIC!!!”
The viral video comes as YouTube continues to struggle with policing the coronavirus misinformation on its platform, such as unproven treatments in videos and in ads and other conspiracy theory content about the virus.