During a two-hour event, prominent anti-vaccine figures attempted to undermine the FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines by promoting misinformation and repeatedly attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci, the long-serving head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The event was streamed live on Facebook and YouTube, even though both platforms have a ban on vaccine misinformation.
On January 5, conspiracy theorist Sacha Stone hosted an event titled Focus on Fauci with known anti-vaccine activists, including Judy Mikovits, a discredited scientist who starred in the conspiracy theory film Plandemic; Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who heads an anti-vaccine organization; David Martin, who was featured in Plandemic; and Rocco Galati, a lawyer who has represented an anti-vaccine group in Canada.
The event was the latest attempt by anti-vaccine figures to influence public perceptions about the COVID-19 vaccine. Anti-vaccine activists have spent months using right-wing media and social media platforms to sow seeds of misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19 vaccines, and Fauci. Social media platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube, have struggled to stop the spread of dangerous COVID-19 misinformation throughout the pandemic, and videos containing misinformation and conspiracy theories have earned millions of views.
In October, YouTube implemented policies prohibiting content making false claims about COVID-19 vaccines and Facebook followed with its own ban in December. The January 5 livestreams seemingly violate these policies and are already spreading across the platforms. During the event, Stone claimed that there were over 20,000 people watching it live on various platforms. At time of publication, the videos on Facebook have at least 190,000 views and at least 67,000 views on YouTube. Only one of the videos that streamed on YouTube has been removed for violating YouTube’s terms of service. The videos have also been shared thousands of times, including within Facebook groups dedicated to spreading conspiracy theories, opposing vaccines, and protesting preventive measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, such as masks and lockdowns.
During the event, the host and guests repeatedly pushed misinformation about vaccines and attacked Fauci. Here are the six most egregious examples: