Across dozens of Arabic pages and groups, dangerous conspiracy theories about the pandemic are racking up millions of views and likes. New research from the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD), which has been shared with WIRED, shows vaccine falsehoods are rampantly spreading in Arabic on Facebook.
Amongst this sludge of lies and mistruths, [Bill] Gates emerges as a common theme. The Microsoft founder is a central figure in Western conspiracy theories around the pandemic and these same lies have been translated into Arabic, with text or voice-overs added to videos and images. One page, which has more than 134,000 likes, has pushed a video about Gates’ “horror plan”, baselessly accusing him of wanting to depopulate the planet and make money from vaccines. (There is no evidence this is true).
The videos are so absurd and blatantly false that it should be easy for Facebook to identify and remove them proactively, the ISD researchers say. Their report says Facebook’s moderation of Arabic misinformation isn’t as effective as it is in English. “You can’t just address it in one part of Facebook,” [ISD Africa director Moustafa] Ayad says. “You have to address the communities across the board.”