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Tag: tiktok

New Anti-Vax Disinformation Video Got 30 Million Views On Social Media

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A viral video pushing misleading claims about coronavirus vaccines and masks has earned at least 30 million views from uploads directly on mainstream social media platforms. In addition to this extensive view count, the video has also seemingly received millions of Facebook engagements despite these platforms' rules against coronavirus misinformation.

Previously, Facebook claimed that it would remove content from its platform that pushes false claims about vaccines. YouTube has said it prohibits content "about COVID-19 that poses a serious risk of egregious harm" or "contradicts local health authorities' or the World Health Organization's (WHO) medical information about COVID-19." TikTok has said it prohibits "misinformation related to COVID-19, vaccines, and anti-vaccine disinformation," and Twitter has said it prohibits "false or misleading information about COVID-19 which may lead to harm."

Despite those rules, the new video promoting lies about the pandemic and vaccines has already spread extensively on these platforms in just a few days.

The viral video features a man named Dan Stock -- who has said he was at the United States Capitol building during the January 6 insurrection -- speaking in front of an Indiana city's school board, where he makes multiple false claims. Calling himself a "functional family medicine physician," Stock falsely suggested that coronavirus vaccines were not effective, saying, "Why is a vaccine that is supposedly so effective having a breakout in the middle of the summer when respiratory viral syndromes don't do that?" He also falsely claimed, "People who have recovered from COVID-19 infection actually get no benefit from vaccination at all," and inaccurately alleged that masks do not work, saying that "coronavirus and all other respiratory viruses ... are spread by aerosol particles, which are small enough to go through every mask." And rather than vaccines, Stock suggested people use the drug ivermectin to treat COVID-19 -- which the FDA has specifically advised against.

A review by Media Matters found that the video has earned tens of millions of views from direct uploads on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok combined.

On Instagram, uploads of the video have earned more than 4.6 million combined views. One upload, from right-wing host Sebastian Gorka, has received more than 3.5 million views alone. (In fact, Gorka's uploads of the clip on Instagram and Twitter appear to have contributed to nearly 30 percent of the known views of native uploads on mainstream social media platforms.) Another Instagram upload has nearly half a million views alone. And "Disinformation Dozen" member Sherri Tenpenny, who is ban evading on the platform, got thousands of views for her upload of the video.

Gorka Instagram Stock video

Uploads have also circulated on Facebook, with copies of the video earning at least 100,000 views. A page called Hancock County Indiana Patriots, which claims to have first uploaded the viral clip, got more than 90,000 views for its upload of the video which was then shared by John Jacob, a Republican member of the Indiana House of Representatives. (Jacob also earned thousands of views for his own upload of the video.)

John Jacob Hancock County Indiana Patriots Facebook Stock video

On YouTube, uploads of the video have earned at least 6.5 million views. One version earned well over 3.6 million views before it was taken down for violating YouTube's community guidelines. Multiple uploads of the video -- including the one with millions of views -- also carried ads, meaning YouTube had profited off of spreading these harmful COVID misinformation claims.

Dan Stock YouTube video ads1

On Twitter, uploads of the video have received more than 5.5 million views. Similar to Instagram shares, most of the Twitter views come from an upload by Gorka which was shared on the platform by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and The Daily Wire's Candace Owens, among others. Gorka's upload was ultimately blocked from being shared on Twitter, but only after days of remaining active.

Jordan Gorka Twitter Stock video

And on TikTok, one user's upload of the video (divided into two parts) earned roughly 14 million views alone. A member of the major TikTok conservative group Republican Hype House also uploaded the video, getting thousands of views.

TikTok Stock video

That a new coronavirus misinformation video was not just able to go viral but apparently surpass the wide spread of previous COVID conspiracy theory videos suggests that many social media platforms continue to struggle with enforcing their policies against misinformation about vaccines and COVID-19. Similarly, the video's ongoing reach shows that efforts by these platforms to label or take it down are not happening nearly fast enough to contain the spread of such harmful misinformation.

Research contributions from Olivia Little, Camden Carter, Spencer Silva, Nena Beecham, Jeremy Tuthill, Kayla Gogarty & Carly Evans.

TikTok Promoting Far-Right Conspiracy Theories To Unwitting Young Users

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A number of seemingly harmless conspiracy theory TikTok accounts appear to be peddling dangerous misinformation to their unknowing audience. Even worse, TikTok's recommendation algorithm appears to encourage users to follow accounts that push similar extremist misinformation.

While these accounts may look benign or silly on the surface, a deeper dive reveals a darker truth: They're also disseminating far-right conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy TikTok, also known as "ConspiracyTok," is a community that regularly discusses conspiracy theories. Because of the massive size of the community and popularity of the content, discussion topics widely vary. Some accounts are dedicated to documenting alleged proof of extraterrestrial life; others solely post flat earth conspiracy theories.

Research published in 2014 by the University of Chicago found that about "half of the American public consistently endorses at least one conspiracy theory." Conspiracy theories have been (and most likely always will be) popular, but not every conspiracy theory is built the same -- and some have the potential to present material harm to their subscribers.

TikTok Encouraging Users Onto Far-Right Accounts

Beyond the innate popularity of conspiracy theories, TikTok's account recommendation algorithm (which is tailored to the "interests" or "connections" of an individual user) makes it easier for users to be pulled into a world of radical content. In one instance, when a user follows a seemingly harmless flat earth account, they get prompts to follow a slew of accounts pushing anti-vaxx misinformation, QAnon-related theories, COVID-19 denial, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. This pattern repeats when further following TikTok's account recommendations.

The Camouflage

A user curious about conspiracy theories runs the risk of inadvertently getting sucked into a far more malicious rabbit hole, which is why seemingly harmless conspiracy theory accounts posting far-right conspiracy narratives is uniquely dangerous.

For example, "Conscious Content" is an account with over 11,300 followers and an innocuous bio that reads, "Learn and inspire!" Some of its first videos are about Atlantis, TV show predictions, and the "amazing intelligence of mushrooms." However, a closer examination of the profile reveals that the creator also reposts clips in support of far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and believes that Jeffrey Epstein was an Israeli spy.

This is not an isolated example, and in fact seems to be a pattern among other popular conspiracy theory accounts.

Another user, "jeff.speaks.facts" has over 157,500 followers and over 2.3 million likes. Their bio reads "Jesus is Lord and Savior" and the account appears to push conspiracy theories about celebrities. Yet again, a slightly closer look reveals that they have pushed the wildly anti-Semitic Rothschild conspiracy theory and received over 24,800 likes on that single video.

Similarly, "we.are.the.cure," an account with over 31,900 followers, frames itself as a spirituality account -- pushing conspiracy theories through a religious lense. However, mixed in is a video pushing the Rothschild conspiracy theory with a picture of what appears to be the devil above the name. The caption of the video encourages users to tag someone who "doesn't know this." The account also uploaded a 12-part video series about the Illuminati and its "secret plans for the world."

Some Dangerous Conspiracy Theories On ConspiracyTok

Some accounts that appear to focus on niche conspiracy theories or spiritual enlightenment are also posting dangerous COVID-19 misinformation and QAnon conspiracy theories, deceiving unsuspecting followers.

Misinformation about adrenochrome (a substance QAnon followers believe is harvested from the blood of children and then consumed by "global elites") appears to be a popular piece of misinformation circulating in conspiracy theory communities.

  • "ConspiracyRebels" has a profile picture of a triangle and eye, commonly associated with the Illuminati, and many of the account's latest posts are about ancient aliens. Yet, just days earlier the same account posted a videopurporting to show "Adrenochrome" with the caption, "They Are Lying To Us."
  • "Jabarr," another conspiracy theory account with over 17,200 followers and bio reading "Knowledge is Power. Knowledge is truth" also posts about adrenochrome.
  • "Deep Down The Rabbit Hole," an account that claims to focus on "health" and "spirituality" and has over 7,500 followers posted a video about adrenochrome. The account also uses the QAnon-affiliated hashtags "#thestormisuponus," "#deepstate," and "#cannibalism."
  • Infinite.energy, an account with over 127,500 followers and over 1.6 million likes, presents itself as a spirituality account, posting videos about "creating your own reality" and "how to manifest." A deeper dive shows that the account has promoted conspiracy theories about the New World Order and has used the hashtag "Q."

COVID-19 misinformation widely circulating on TikTok is a documented problem, and an issue that the platform has promised to aggressively combat. Yet, harmful anti-vaccination and COVID-19 misinformation routinely circulate in conspiracy theory spaces.

  • "This shot will rearrange your DNA. They've planned this for one hundred years, it is the mark of the beast," says ember_inside_me1, a conspiracy theory account with the Illuminati eye icon as their profile picture. The account has over 27,500 followers.
  • One account called "TruthSeeker1111" with the bio "Truths, yoga, self inquiry" seems to be a spirituality and enlightenment account. Yet, the account is also peppered with anti-vaccination and COVID-19 denial videos.
  • Another conspiracy theory account, "Opened Eyes," claims to "aid spiritual growth" in other users and has over 15,500 followers. Many of their posts preach enlightenment, but scattered in their feed is a variety of COVID-19 misinformation. "You probably won't be getting the vaccine…right? Educate people why…" reads overlaid text.

TikTok Is Failing Its Young Users

By not diligently moderating extremist content on its own platform, TikTok is allowing for the rapid spread of far-right misinformation to an audience of young users. All of the extremist content identified in this report is supposedly prohibited by TikTok, but remains widely circulated.

VIDEO: Trump’s Most Cringe-Worthy Moments Of 2020

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

This year, Donald Trump botched a federal response to a global pandemic, antagonized peaceful protesters of police brutality, rammed through a questionable Supreme Court pick, and attempted to steal an election.

But he's also fumbled his way through some unforgettable moments, making bizarre statements to the public that have left listeners scratching their heads.

Though it's far from the first year in office that Trump's verbal gaffes have made waves, it's certainly been among the most memorable.

Here are just a few of the more baffling statements the White House occupant made in 2020.

1. When he claimed Austrians live in forests

Discussing wildfires happening across California in early September, Trump told Fox News that Austrians were better equipped to handle such fires because they lived in forests.

"You have forests all over the world," he said. "You don't have fires like you do in California. You know, in Europe they have forest cities ... you look at countries, Austria, you look at so many countries, they live in the forest, they're considered forest cities."

Elisabeth Koestinger, Austria's agriculture secretary, felt the need to respond to Trump's bizarre remarks.

Specifically, she tried to debunk Trump's claims that "we live within 'forest cities' which never catch fire."

"...[T]he gravity of current events make Trump's words much more worrying — after all, right at this moment, thousands of people are fighting horrendous wildfires in life-or-death situations," Koestinger said. "In reality, Austria is a country situated in the heart of Europe, where people do not live in the forest, but rather with the forest and in a close, sustainable relationship with the natural environment."

2. When he wondered aloud about 'exploding' trees

Once again in September, while discussing the California wildfires, Trump wondered aloud to the press about the possibility of trees just "exploding."

"When trees fall down, after a short period of time, about 18 months, they become very dry, they become really like a matchstick and they get up — you know, there's no more water pouring through and they become very very — they just explode," he said.

Experts were quick to fact-check his claim.

Retired fire scientist Richard Rothermel noted that if Trump meant foliage could "suddenly burst into flames due to a massive amount of heat engulfing the tree," that was possible.

But, he added, "For the trunk to become super heated sufficiently to cause the moisture in the tree to suddenly become steam with resulting expansion which would shatter the tree ... In my years at the fire laboratory I never heard anyone report seeing this or finding evidence of it."

3. When he insisted he was just 'inspecting' his White House bunker

Following media reports in June that he'd hid in the underground White House bunker while police cracked down on anti-racism protesters nearby, Trump later claimed he had merely been "inspecting" it.

"They said it would be a good time to go down, take a look, because maybe sometime you're going to need it," he said at the time.

Complaining of "fake news," Trump added that he "looked" at the space for "a very, very short period of time."

"I can't tell you who went with me, but a whole group of people went with me, as an inspecting factor, I was back up, and ... it was during the day, it wasn't during the night," he said, slamming the media for reporting that the so-called "inspection" had happened at in the evening hours.

4. When he referred to Thailand as 'thigh-land'

Speaking at a Whirlpool factory in Ohio this past August, Trump mispronounced the name of Thailand as "thigh-land."

"Five years ago, this place was a disaster," he said in his remarks. "In 2017, Whirlpool won relief from the [U.S. International Trade Commission] once again, once more. Your foreign competitors moved their factories to prevent the level playing field and to avoid liability, shifting production to thigh-land and Vietnam," he said.

Trump quickly corrected himself, repeating "Thailand and Vietnam."

Those in Thailand, however, took the gaffe in stride, with English-language outlet the Thai Enquirer briefly changing its Twitter name to the "Thigh Enquirer".

5. When he suggested Americans inject bleach to cure coronavirus

In April, a White House official explained in a press conference that lights and certain disinfectants like bleach could potentially kill coronavirus living on surfaces.

Eager to put in his two cents, Trump suggested those treatments might be taken internally.

"So supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it's ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said that hasn't been checked, but you're going to test it, and then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do, either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you're going to test that, too," he said.

He added that injecting disinfectant might also be a good way to combat the virus.

"I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?" Trump asked. "Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does at tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that. So that you're gonna have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me."

Medical experts were swift to condemn Trump's remarks as dangerous, and Lysol and another disinfectant company issued a joint statement warning that "under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body."

6. When he wished an accused sex trafficker well

In a cringeworthy statement heard round the world, Trump sent his best wishes to Jeffrey Epstein's longtime companion, accused sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell.

"I just wish her well, frankly," he told a reporter in July. "I've met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach and I guess they lived in Palm Beach, but I wish her well, whatever it is."

The FBI had recently arrested and charged Maxwell with sex trafficking of children, enticement of minors, and perjury at that time.

7. When he wondered why he couldn't force TikTok to pay off the government

Trump seemed gobsmacked in a September press conference to discover he — or, rather, the U.S. government — couldn't collect a bounty from Microsoft's acquisition of Chinese-owned app TikTok.

Trump had previously stated that any sale of the app to a U.S. entity should require the company to give the Treasury a "very big" payment as part of the deal.

Under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, governments are legally barred from making such payments to other governments in the private marketplace.

Asked if TikTok would indeed make payments to the U.S. Treasury in September, Trump told reporters, "We're going to see about that."

"Amazingly, I find that you're not allowed to do that, you're not allowed to accept money, so what kind of a government, what kind of thing is this, if they're willing to make big payments to the government, they're not allowed, because there's no way of doing that, there's no legal path to doing that," Trump said.

He continued, "And I'm saying wait a minute, they're willing to make a big payment to the government and we're not allowed to take their money? When does this happen? How foolish can we be, so we're gonna, we're looking into that right now."

8. When he claimed (falsely) that the biggest election threat was 'ballots'

In a September press conference, Trump ignored the raging pandemic around him to claim that the biggest threat to the November election was "ballots" — specifically mail ballots intended to keep voters safe amid the pandemic.

"The biggest problem we have right now are the ballots," he said in a press conference that month. "Millions of ballots going out, that's the biggest problem."

"Our biggest threat to this election is governors from opposing parties controlling ballots, millions of ballots," he added. "To me that's a much bigger threat than foreign countries."

He then falsely claimed allegations of foreign interference in the 2016 election had been disproven, despite intelligence community consensus, and his own party's confirmation, that Russia did in fact meddle in and affect that election.

Trump's repeated claims of widespread ballot fraud have been thoroughly debunked, and even his own outgoing Attorney General William Barr has smacked down allegations that there was mass election fraud that somehow turned the tide for President-elect Joe Biden.

9. When he decided to spell out 'COVID'

In a public statement on April 2 announcing that he would be authorizing the domestic manufacture of more ventilators under the Defense Production Act, Trump bragged that COVID-19 had become a "very famous" term.

He decided to spelled it out, however, rather than calling it by its name. By that point, the media had been reporting on the outbreak, which had been declared a pandemic weeks earlier, for several months.

"C-O-V-I-D 19," Trump said, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus. "You know what that is, it's become a very famous term. C-O-V-I-D. COVID."

By that time, there had already been 3,900 COVID-related deaths in the United States, according to CBS.

10. When he claimed he worked as hard as factory workers

Despite his legendary Twitter habit and Fox News addiction, Trump told factory workers responsible for manufacturing personal protective equipment during the pandemic that he worked as hard as they did.

"The workers at this facility have answered the call at America's hour of need," he told them in May. "Many of you are working long before dawn, get up and you go to work, and long after midnight. I know your hours, I was talking to your people and your representatives ... but I work those hours too, we're all working hard."

In May, the Washington Post estimated that Trump had spent anywhere between 9 and 63 full days on Twitter during his time in office, if all the hours were stacked together. In that time, he has also posted more than 22,000 false or misleading tweets, many of which are easily debunked.

11. When he pronounced 'Yosemite' as 'Yo Semite'

At an August event at the White House to sign a bipartisan conservation bill, Trump infamouslymispronounced the name of Yosemite National Park — twice.

"When young people experience the breathtaking beauty of the Grand Canyon, when their eyes widen in amazement as Old Faithful bursts into the sky, when they gaze upon 'Yo Semite'... Yoseminite's towering sequoias, their love of country grows stronger and they know that every American has truly a duty to preserve this wondrous inheritance," Trump said.

Twitter was quick to call him out on his error.

12. When he said he designed Navy ships to look like 'a yacht with missiles'

In June, Trump inexplicably claimed in a visit to a Wisconsin shipbuilding facility that he designed a new fleet of warships for the U.S. Navy.

"The ships that they were building, they look terrible. I changed designs, I looked at it, I said, 'That's a terrible looking ship, let's make it beautiful, it'll cost you the same and maybe less,'" Trump said. "You know, sometimes you can make it look great for less money. And I said, 'This is not a good looking ship, let's change the design of it.'"

He said that he called in a team who then changed the ship's design.

"They gave me a beautiful — it's like a yacht with missiles on it," Trump added.

13. Any time he tried to dance to 'YMCA' at a campaign rally

Trump seems to be a fan of the Village People hit "YMCA," one of the tunes often played at his 2020 campaign rallies, as evidenced by his now-famous dance moves, which went viral this year.

Those moves even sparked a popular TikTok challenge, with users uploading side-by-side videos of themselves attempting to learn or imitate Trump's dance, which "starts with the arms, clenched fists pumping back and forth — sometimes to the beat — as though he's on an elliptical trainer," as the Associated Press described it.

"The hardest dance to learn," one user joked.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

TikTok Enabling Spread Of Election Conspiracy Disinformation

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Video-sharing social media network TikTok has largely been responsive to removing specific instances of misinformation reported on its platform -- but has not taken sufficient action against accounts that repeatedly peddle election-related lies. As a result, the platform appears to be struggling to control the overall spread of election and voting conspiracy theories at a critical time when ballots are still being counted and the American people need clarity.

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Trump Blurts Demand For ‘Key Money’ While Forcing TikTok Sale

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump says he is allowing Microsoft to purchase the U.S. assets of the popular Beijing-based TikTok social media video sharing app, in a sale Trump personally is forcing.

In discussing what he sees as the broad portions of an agreement the President used a real estate term to openly solicit the payment that would have to be made to the U.S. Treasury.

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#EndorseThis: Sarah Cooper Answers Trump's Attack On TikTok

We'll keep this very brief, because Sarah Cooper did. She posts her artful lip-sync videos on TikTok, which Trump is now proposing to ban (because of her?) or otherwise sanction.

"How to tick tock" is super-short, but you'll get the idea.


#EndorseThis: Sarah Cooper Does Trump's Madness In 45 Seconds

If you don't know the comedian Sarah Cooper yet, consider her latest Trump TikTok impression. In 45 seconds, she perfectly captures the loopy, mentally lazy, and extremely dangerous president. She brings a bright, brief dose of levity to these midnight times.

Click and chortle. (And don't forget to follow @sarahcpr on Twitter!)