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How Are These Horrible Vaccine TikToks Fooling So Many People?

Low effort misinformation is having a huge impact on the platform.

Aug 18 / Dan Robitzski
Futurism
Image by Futurism

TikTok’s hottest new trend? Dangerous COVID-19 misinformation.

It’s not a surprise that misinformation is spreading so rampantly on the social media platform, which promotes a rapid-fire onslaught of video so unrelenting it’s amazing anyone can walk away with any semblance of an attention span intact. It’s also unsurprising to anyone who’s studied media or misinformation that COVID-19 and the vaccines that prevent it (exceptionally well) are a common target of that misinformation.

But the actual videos on the platform that are spreading this dangerous misinformation (which, if presented to an impressionable or vaccine-hesitant viewer, could convince someone to skip out on getting their COVID-19 shots)? Well, those are a surprise — primarily for how completely inane they are.

A comprehensive report by Media Matters focuses on 18 of these videos — all of which have gone viral to varying degrees — and the vaccine lies they peddle. Some are deliberately misleading, like one that claims “vaccine bandits” will jab you with the vaccine on the side of the road, but tracked to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Regardless of the creator’s intentions, these videos are reaching people despite TikTok’s repeated claims that it cleans up COVID-19 disinformation.

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Some of the other videos get even more outrageous, like one with 3.9 million views — suggesting many have shared it and extended its reach ­— that bizarrely claims that unvaccinated children and elderly relatives will be abducted by the government. Of course, there are the old, tired, nonsense claims about vaccine microchips, but one TikTok with 1.5 million views says that the vaccine will make people glow under ultraviolet light.

That’s the bizarre and frustrating part. These TikToks are so easily and readily disproven and debunked — all of them have been — and yet they proliferate so rapidly among millions of viewers, not all of whom will be in on the boring, exhausting joke, the butt of which is, well, our future, and a continued inability to get life closer to how it once was before this pandemic.

And, of course, the misinformation (and its adherents) keeping it going.


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