Inside the conspiratorial movement waging a cross-platform 'psychological warfare' campaign against Covid-19 vaccine advocates
On Dec. 1, Meta said it had removed an “adversarial network” of authentic, duplicate, and fake accounts on Facebook linked to a group known as the V_V movement. The network originated in Italy and France, and was used by anti-vaccine activists to harass specific individuals, as well as spread Covid-19 conspiracies and health misinformation.
Graphika has tracked the growth of conspiratorial movements online throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, seeking to understand how these communities have evolved, and to what extent they have enabled real-world and online harms. In the case of V_V, we have observed what appears to be a sprawling populist movement that has combined pre-existing conspiracy theories with anti-authoritarian narratives, and a groundswell of health misinformation. The group claims to be a self-organizing collective of internet “warriors” engaged in a guerilla “psychological warfare” campaign against the oppressive forces of “medical Nazism.”
As noted by Meta, V_V members are distinct for their propensity to orchestrate and engage in harmful behavior. Online, this has included the vicious and widespread harassment of journalists, health workers, and public officials, as well as coordinated down-voting of social media posts advocating for Covid-19 health measures. Some actions have also directly targeted offline spaces, where health facilities have been defaced, and V_V members have attempted to disrupt public vaccination programs.
V_V should be understood against the wider backdrop of conspiratorial Covid-skeptic movements that have taken root over the past 18 months, and perpetuate both on- and offline harms. These include Querdenken in Germany, and often present as evolving and fractured social movements coalesced around a common narrative or set of beliefs, as opposed to clearly defined and delineated organizations. Their members frequently coordinate openly online, under their real names, while collectively engaging in harmful behavior. This presents challenges for researchers, public bodies, and social media platforms that wish to address malicious activity while preserving freedom of speech and online expression.
This report aims to contribute to the basis for an informed discussion about how to tackle those challenges by providing an in-depth understanding of the V_V movement, its activities, and organizational structure.
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