Anti-vaxxers are having a field day with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine news that broke earlier this week.
And that news is helping them go viral on Facebook.
The most popular Facebook post sharing a link about the vaccine this week belongs to a conspiracy theorist who goes by the name An0maly. According to NPR, the post from the self-described “news analyst and hip-hop artist” was more popular than stories shared by CNN, ABC News, The New York Times, and Fox News.
An0maly has a history of spreading right-wing conspiracy theories across social media. While some of his previous posts have been removed or restricted — according to him — he has been able to maintain accounts on major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
The viral post in question is still live on the An0maly Facebook page. Facebook told NPR that while it has taken down millions of pieces of content that spread coronavirus misinformation, this particular link An0maly shared did not feature factually incorrect information.
And that is true. An0maly’s viral Facebook post was simply sharing a CNN link containing the news about the vaccine — namely that earlier this week the CDC and the FDA called for a nationwide pause on administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine.
This decision was made after six people who received the vaccine developed a “rare and severe” type of blood clot. Six million people have taken the Johnson & Johnson version of the COVID-19 vaccine since it became available in the U.S. at the beginning of last month. It should be noted that the pause was described as a precautionary measure. It’s unclear at this time if the vaccine caused the blood clots.
While An0maly shared a CNN link, the additional commentary he added presented the story to his 1.5 million followers as something that was trying to be covered up. An0maly’s post racked up tens of thousands of likes and shares and received thousands of comments.
WATCH: How to recognize and avoid fake news
NPR first noticed An0maly’s viral post via an analytics tool offered by Facebook itself. The CrowdTangle app provides users with data that shows what’s trending on social media platforms.
Facebook has previously had issues with CrowdTangle data, such as when reports were published showing right-wing pages dominating the platform. Facebook argued then that CrowdTangle — once again, a tool run by Facebook — doesn’t accurately portray what’s most popular on the platform.
An0maly certainly isn’t the only spreader of disinformation that has taken advantage of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine news. As NPR points out, prominent anti-vaxxers such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. shared the news with his hundreds of thousands of his Facebook fans. Rizza Islam, another anti-vaccine influencer, also posted about the vaccine being paused to his tens of thousands of Twitter followers.
Both Kennedy and Islam are listed as part of the “Disinformation Dozen,” in a recent report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate and Anti-Vax Watch. The report found that 12 individuals are responsible for the majority of anti-vaccine disinformation spread on social media.
An0maly is not part of that list…yet.