'Plandemic' Viral Conspiracy Video Removed From Facebook, Twitter Over 'Imminent Harm'
A video spreading "harmful and misleading" COVID-19 claims -- including that wearing a mask is dangerous -- has been blacklisted by social media sites, but not before it racked up millions of views as a worldwide sensation.
You've probably seen it across your social media feeds in recent weeks.
'Plandemic: The Hidden Agenda Behind Covid-19', a 26-minute video clip, shares a variety of baseless or highly-contested coronavirus conspiracy theories -- including that the virus was "manipulated" in a lab and was "not naturally occurring", that hospitals are inflating official virus infection numbers, and that getting the flu vaccination increases the chances of contracting coronavirus.
The video's producers say the film aims to "expose the scientific and political elite who run the scam that is our global health system".
The video also makes spurious claims about Microsoft founder Bill Gates, as well as American health official Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and one of the top officials overseeing the U.S. coronavirus response.
'Plandemic' racked up more than six million views on Youtube alone in just a few days. But the video-sharing site has since deleted the original version, "for violating YouTube's Community Guidelines."
Another video site, Vimeo, has also deleted and banned the video from its platform, a spokesperson saying Vimeo "stands firm in keeping our platform safe from content that spreads harmful and misleading health information".
Similar decisions have been reached by Facebook and Twitter, with the social media giants blacklisting the video and suppressing its ability to spread through trending topics and hashtags -- but countless versions of the video have since been uploaded anyway, many racking up thousands of views before they can be deleted.
Facebook has previously told 10 daily it is taking "aggressive steps to stop misinformation and harmful content" around coronavirus.
A Facebook spokesperson told 10 daily in a short statement that it would be removing 'Plandemic' due to its claims about face masks -- including the false allegation "wearing the mask literally activates your own virus", a claim that flies in the face of accepted science on face masks and infection.
"Suggesting that wearing a mask can make you sick could lead to imminent harm, so we're removing the video," the spokesperson said.
10 daily understands the video will be removed by Facebook moderators wherever it is found on the platform.
Social media analysis from the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensics Lab found an Australian-based conspiracy theory group on Facebook -- which was among those which organised an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne on Sunday -- was one of the biggest spreaders in the world of the film.
10 daily also understands Twitter has marked as 'unsafe' a website owned by the film's production company, where the video clip can be downloaded.
At least three hashtags related to 'Plandemic' have also been blocked from appearing in trending topics on Twitter's homepage.
Twitter has removed thousands of tweets which have shared disputed or harmful COVID-19 claims in the last two months.
But despite the widespread social media crackdown on the film, 'Plandemic' continues to spread, and the team behind it are themselves trying to thwart the efforts of the tech giants by encouraging fans to spread the video themselves.
The production company behind the 26-minute clip said it is only one of "a series of vignettes" which will be released from a longer "full-length documentary" to be released in the American summer season -- mid-2020.
"Our videos are being taken down every minute. We appreciate your support. More coming soon," the production company said on its website.
"In an effort to bypass the gatekeepers of free speech, we invite you to download this interview by simply clicking the button below, then uploading directly to all of your favorite platforms."
Mikki Willis, the filmmaker behind Plandemic, told CBS News partner CNET in an email that he doesn't plan to appeal the takedowns of the videos, but added he was "working on a strategy to bypass the gatekeepers."
The doctor featured in the clip, Dr Judy Mikovits, is a discredited scientist. A former researcher at America's National Cancer Institute, she was fired from her position at the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease after a paper she published in 2009 on chronic fatigue syndrome was discredited and later retracted by the 'Science' journal.
After a number of researchers tried and failed to replicate Mikovits' results in their own experiments, 'Science' issued a statement in 2011 saying it had "lost confidence in the Report and the validity of its conclusions" and cited "evidence of poor quality control in a number of specific experiments in the Report" among other criticisms.
Mikovits was also arrested after allegedly taking materials including notebooks and a computer from the Whittemore Peterson Institute after she was fired, but the charges were later dropped.
She has since become a popular figure in conservative political circles online, with more than 130,000 Twitter followers, and a book she released in April has shot to number five on Amazon's best-sellers list this week.