After vigorous discussion and deliberation, IREHR researchers and allies agreed to characterize the Facebook groups featured in this report as engaging in “COVID denialism.” In our assessment, this term can reliably represent all of these groups, regardless of their geographic, ideological, numerical, and operational diversity. They held this in common: The virus and the pandemic that has taken root worldwide, together with efforts to impede its spread and protect people through vaccination, are opposed. And, though a variety of reasons for that opposition are given, all of them rely upon a denial of the severity, or even the existence, of the pandemic. For this reason, we use the term denial.
Additionally, we think there are obvious parallels with the terms such as “racism denial, “Holocaust denial,” or “genocide denial” that are useful, although they should not be overstated as they have different functions in far-right and nationalist ideology.
Identification of new Facebook groups and membership documentation was carried out August 1—24, 2021. IREHR researchers used a variety of search terms to locate and characterize COVID 19 denialism. Only those Facebook Groups that were active during that timeframe were included. IREHR researchers scoured Facebook Groups for evidence of continuing support for COVID 19 denialism. We identified many groups founded in 2020 that were still active, along with the proliferation of new groups.
Sample search terms:
- Anti-Vaxx, Anti-vaccination, against the jab, against vaccine.
- Anti-Mask, masks, against masks, masking, parents against masks, parents against masking.
- Re-open, against shutdown, against lockdowns.
- Plandemic, Covid Hoax,
- Quarantine, against quarantine.
- Mandatory masks, Against Mandates.
OnceCOVID denial-aligned groups were identified, we grouped them into seven major categories: