The BBC has boasted that it triggered the removal of a Facebook vaccine injury support group with over 250,000 members.
The BBC has seen several groups, one with hundreds of thousands of members, in which the [carrot] emoji appears in place of the word ‘vaccine’. Facebook’s algorithms tend to focus on words rather than images. The groups are being used to share unverified claims of people being either injured or killed by vaccines.
Once the BBC alerted Facebook’s parent company, Meta, the groups were removed.
“We have removed this group for violating our harmful misinformation policies and will review any other similar content in line with this policy. We continue to work closely with public health experts and the U.K. Government to further tackle Covid vaccine misinformation,” the firm said in a statement.
However, the groups have since reappeared in our searches.
One group we saw has been around for three years but rebranded itself to focus on vaccine stories, from being a group for sharing “banter, bets and funny videos” in August 2022.
The rules of the very large group state: “Use code words for everything.” It adds: “Do not use the c word, v word or b word ever” (Covid, vaccine, booster). It was created more than a year ago and has more than 250,000 members.
Marc Owen-Jones, a disinformation researcher, and associate professor at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar, was invited to join it.
“It was people giving accounts of relatives who had died shortly after having the COVID-19 vaccine”, he said. “But instead of using the words ‘COVID-19’ or ‘vaccine’, they were using emojis of carrots.
“Initially I was a little confused. And then it clicked – that it was being used as a way of evading, or apparently evading, Facebook’s fake news detection algorithms.”
I wonder if Parliament’s champion of the vaccine injured Sir Christopher Chope has anything to say about this? He is just about to launch a new All Party Parliamentary Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Damage.