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How the viral ‘Plandemic’ video became a poster child for coronavirus misinformation

Published May 15th, 2020 4:43PM EDT
Coronavirus misinformation

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  • Ever since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak that went on to become a deadly global pandemic, myths and misinformation have gone hand-in-hand with the spread of the virus — which has now sickened more than 4.4 million people around the world.
  • A nearly half-hour film titled Plandemic has become a kind of poster child for coronavirus misinformation, getting banned by the major social media platforms but finding a ready and receptive audience in the dark corners of the Internet.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

The sign of a protestor at a recent gathering in California declared: “We are onto this plandemic! Open CA now.”

In case you’ve somehow missed what that’s in reference to, that’s a shoutout to a nearly half-hour-long video of the same name that was uploaded to the internet earlier this month, and which quickly started circulating on Facebook and YouTube on its way to becoming a kind of poster child for misinformation in the coronavirus age. Its centerpiece is an interview with Judy Mikovits, a former molecular biologist, who asserts a number of wild claims — such as the contention that health officials in the US are inflating coronavirus numbers on purpose and that a sinister group of elites including Bill Gates and Dr. Anthony Fauci is taking advantage of this crisis to make money.

This is the kind of thing that’s been circulating, unfortunately, since pretty much the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. Myths and misinformation have spread pretty much in line with the virus itself, leading to a string of popular-yet-wrong assumptions about COVID-19. One of the most egregious lies about the virus, though, is one spread by the Plandemic video which is probably most responsible for its social media blackout — its assertion that wearing a face mask could put you more at risk of getting sick from coronavirus.

Indeed, a Facebook rep has pointed to that claim as the reason the social network scrubbed it from the service on May 6, the day YouTube also did the same.

Mikki Willis, the filmmaker behind the video, is unapologetic.

“We made the video to go viral,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “We knew the branding was conspiratorial and shocking. Unfortunately, in this age, you kind of have to be that to get people’s attention. But that it would go viral to this degree, I don’t think anyone could project.”

Willis told the newspaper he paid for the movie’s production costs and was driven in part by his concerns about vaccines and his perception that the pharmaceutical industry is corrupt. The latter being inspired by his mother’s death from cancer when he was a young man, something he thinks was brought on at least in part by medical treatments that may have exacerbated her condition.

Through mutual acquaintances, Willis met Mikovits (who is adored by anti-vaxxers). And to come up with the title of his movie, Willis turned to — where else? — his followers on Facebook.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.