Superspreaders

Tracking Facebook’s COVID-19 Misinformation ‘Super-spreaders’

UPDATED: April 23, 2020

Editor’s Note: As of April 23, 2020, we have added an additional 16 Facebook Pages to this list. Click here to jump to the new pages added in this update.


As COVID-19 spreads around the world, NewsGuard has been tracking the top hoaxes about the pandemic that are spreading on the internet—and the dozens of websites that are publishing those false stories.

Today, we’re introducing a new data set focused not on individual websites or false stories, but on the Facebook Pages that repeat, share, and amplify these myths — from false cures to conspiracy theories about the virus. We plan to release similar data for other platforms, such as Twitter and YouTube, in the coming weeks.

Key Findings

In this data set, we have identified 31 Facebook Pages that are “super-spreaders” of COVID-19 misinformation, meaning they have large Facebook audiences. Combined, these accounts reach 21,352,918 followers. We plan to add more pages to this data set as we continue our research.

Despite Facebook’s announced efforts to stop the spread of this type of misinformation, these pages continue to be allowed to use Facebook to publish blatant misinformation about COVID-19 — seemingly in violation of the platform’s content policies.

In some cases, such as three Facebook pages affiliated with the website RealFarmacy.com, we found evidence of what appears to be “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” which violates Facebook’s policies.

We also found that in a majority of the false posts we reviewed, Facebook did not provide any warning, fact-checking language, or links to more credible sources — despite the platform’s recent promises to do so. Of the posts we have identified so far publishing COVID-19 misinformation, 63% did not have any warning or fact-check link attached to the post.

In some cases, multiple posts that asserted the same myth were treated differently, with certain posts flagged by Facebook’s fact-checkers and others left alone. It did not appear that the fact-checker warnings were more common for posts with high engagement or pages with high follower counts. Whether or not a fact check was shown appeared to be random. 

Even for the posts that did have fact-checker warnings, those warnings would only have appeared after the hoax had been published. That lapse is exacerbated by Facebook’s policy of not providing information to its users that Facebook Pages like these have been known to publish misinformation or hoaxes in the past. This prior bad conduct is especially true of purveyors of COVID-19 hoaxes; NewsGuard has found that 80% of the 174 COVID-19 misinformation sites we have now identified had already been rated Red by NewsGuard for publishing misinformation in the past.

Methodology and Data Set

To qualify as super-spreaders, Facebook Pages we have included here had to meet three simple criteria:

  • They have large followings of more than 100,000 page “likes” on Facebook. 
  • They have published or shared clearly and egregiously false content about the virus —  either one of the top COVID-19 myths we’ve previously debunked or a false story we have debunked in one of the Nutrition Labels in our Coronavirus Misinformation Tracker. In many cases, the pages have shared such content more than once.
  • They were active as of April 17, 2020. In other words, Facebook had not acted to remove them prior to our publication of this data.

Our analysts derived this list in part by tracing which Facebook Pages had linked to false stories on websites from our COVID-19 misinformation tracker. This data was supplemented with additional research and reporting.

This list is, of course, a work in progress. The accounts listed may not be the most frequent offenders or be the publishers of false COVID-19 misinformation with the largest audiences. And the examples we list for each page do not necessarily represent an exhaustive list of all the times the page published COVID-19 misinformation.

Click here to download the dataset in spreadsheet form. If you are aware of another account that meets these criteria, please report it here and our team will review it.

Scroll down for a list of some of the most egregious examples of misinformation “super-spreaders” we’ve found so far.


Global Informers

4,858,932 Facebook Page Likes

An English-language page for a business with an address in Turkey that is managed from Pakistan. Created in 2017, the page posts links, memes, photos, and videos.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

NewsGuard sent a Facebook message to Global Informers seeking comment on the false claims published by the page about COVID-19. The message has not drawn a response.


Rush Limbaugh

2,384,229 Facebook Page Likes

The Facebook Page of Rush Limbaugh, a conservative radio commentator, which posts links to his website and other conservative outlets and blogs, along with photos and videos.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

RushLimbaugh.com did not respond to two emails from NewsGuard seeking comment on the site’s publication of false coronavirus claims.

Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that the date of the Facebook post referred to in the report was February 24. It was actually February 29th. NewsGuard apologizes for the error. The report also has been updated to include a reference to an additional COVID-19-related misstatement by the website that did appear on a February 24 Facebook post.


Energy Therapy

1,993,987 Facebook Page Likes

A U.K.-based Facebook Page associated with the site EnergyTherapy.biz sharing content related to organic health and philosophy.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

Energy Therapy did not respond to an email seeking comment on the site’s publication of false coronavirus claims.


The Farmacy

1,336,754 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook page that appears to be affiliated with RealFarmacy.com, a website that often publishes false health information and unverified medical advice.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

RealFarmacy.com did not respond to three emails from NewsGuard seeking comment on the site’s history of publishing false content.


REALfarmacy.com

1,199,499 Facebook Page Likes

Another Facebook page that appears to be affiliated with RealFarmacy.com, a website that often publishes false health information and unverified medical advice.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

RealFarmacy.com did not respond to three emails from NewsGuard seeking comment on the site’s history of publishing false content.


Grow Food, Not Lawns

1,162,973 Facebook Page Likes

Another Facebook page that appears to be affiliated with RealFarmacy.com, a website that often publishes false health information and unverified medical advice.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

RealFarmacy.com did not respond to three emails from NewsGuard seeking comment on the site’s history of publishing false content.


The Truth About Cancer

1,137,216 Facebook Page Likes

A U.S.-based Facebook page that has published misinformation about vaccines and other health topics.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

The Truth About Cancer did not respond to an email seeking comment on its publication of false coronavirus claims.


David Icke

786,804 Facebook Page Likes

The Facebook Page of David Icke, a former professional soccer player and conspiracy theorist whose website publishes a variety of false and unsubstantiated claims.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

DavidIcke.com did not respond to an email seeking comment on the site’s publication of false coronavirus claims.


Bradlee Dean

772,627 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page affiliated with SonsofLibertyMedia.com, a political news site with a self-described “Christian, Biblical world-view” that has repeatedly published false stories, including claims that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is fake. The Facebook Page is named after Bradley Dean Smith, the CEO of the organization that owns SonsofLibertyMedia.com.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

When previously asked by NewsGuard about false claims published on SonsofLibertyMedia.com, Bradley Dean Smith said, “You’re bullying. I don’t like your tone, I don’t like your propaganda. I don’t like who’s funding you, and if you have an issue with us, govern yourself accordingly.” In March 2020, in response to questions about the website’s false claims related to the coronavirus outbreak, Dean again told NewsGuard in an email, “Govern yourself accordingly.”


The Gateway Pundit

631,000 Facebook Page Likes

The Facebook Page of the partisan conservative website The Gateway Pundit.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

Asked about The Gateway Pundit’s article, and a second article that also touted research on the drug’s effectiveness for treating COVID-19, The Gateway Pundit’s founder Jim Hoft said: “Please note I was speaking of the two studies in question. Not the overall effectiveness of the drug in controlled scientific studies.”


Waking Times

616,248 Facebook Page Likes

The Facebook page of the website WakingTimes.com, which publishes false health and science claims, including claims linking vaccinations to autism and false claims about COVID-19.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

Dylan Charles, the owner of Waking Times, did not respond to an email seeking comment about the publication of false coronavirus claims.


Activist Post

522,423 Facebook Page Likes

The Facebook Page of Activist Post, a site that has frequently published debunked conspiracy theories.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

NewsGuard sent three emails to Activist Post’s general email address and to one of its reporters, along with a message sent through its contact form, seeking comment on the site’s false claims about COVID-19 and other topics. None of the messages drew a response.


Health Impact News

456,089 Facebook Page Likes

The Facebook Page of Health Impact News, a network of health sites that publishes false content, including claims that drinking a bleach-like solution can cure autism and misinformation about COVID-19.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

Brian Shilhavy, the managing editor of HealthImpactNews.com, did not respond to an email from NewsGuard seeking comment on the site’s false and unsubstantiated claims related to the coronavirus outbreak.


Wake Up America, the Original

491,788 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page that posts conservative-oriented content.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

NewsGuard sent a Facebook message to Wake Up America seeking comment on the false claims about COVID-19. The message has not drawn a response.


God Emperor Trump

342,509 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page that posts conservative-oriented content, including memes, videos, and news articles.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

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Global Research (Centre for Research on Globalization)

279,463 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page affiliated with GlobalResearch.ca, the website of the Centre for Research on Globalization, which has published false content, conspiracy theories, and pro-Russian propaganda.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

  • March 5 post with a link to an article on GlobalResearch.ca containing the unsubstantiated claim that COVID-19 started in the U.S.
  • March 12 post with a link to an article on GlobalResearch.ca containing the unsubstantiated claim that COVID-19 started in the U.S.

Michael Chossudovsky, the site’s founder, did not respond to two emails seeking comment on the site’s history of publishing false content.


Cancer Truth

278,706 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page affiliated with TheTruthAboutCancer.com, a website that has repeatedly promoted unproven and potentially dangerous cancer treatments.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

  • March 10 post with a link to an article on TheTruthAboutCancer.com containing the false claim that COVID-19 is linked to 5G cell phone technology.

NewsGuard did not receive a response to three emails and two messages sent through the site’s contact form seeking comment on its history of publishing false health claims and other issues.


National Vaccine Information Center

218,539 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page associated with the NVIC.org, the website of the National Vaccine Information Center, a website that publishes articles with false and unsubstantiated claims about vaccination.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

NewsGuard did not receive a response to an email and Facebook message seeking comment from NVIC.org about the post regarding COVID-19 misinformation.


Tropical Traditions

206,956 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page that publishes a mixture of lifestyle content, recipes, and health information from unreliable sources. It is affiliated with the website HealthyTraditions.com, an e-commerce site that sells natural products and organic oils, which publishes a mixture of lifestyle content, recipes, and health information from unreliable sources.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

NewsGuard did not receive a response from HealthyTraditions.com to an email regarding its history of republishing content from unreliable websites and misinformation about COVID-19.


Mystery, history, space and time.

175,048 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page that posts a variety of links and images about scientific and historical oddities, along with some unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

NewsGuard did not receive a response to a Facebook message sent to Chris O’sZone, the administrator for the Mystery, history, space and time Facebook page, seeking comment on its history of publishing false COVID-19 claims and other misinformation.


America wake up before its too late

166,217 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page that posts a conservative-oriented content and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories 

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

  • February 27 post with a link to an article on RushLimbaugh.com containing the false claim that COVID-19 is similar to the common cold.

This Facebook Page does not accept messages through Facebook, and NewsGuard did not find contact information for the page in order to seek comment.


Colorado for Donald Trump 2020

162,351 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page supporting U.S. President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. The page states that it is not owned by or affiliated with Trump’s campaign.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

  • February 24 post with a link to an article on RushLimbaugh.com containing the false claim that COVID-19 is similar to the common cold.

NewsGuard did not receive a response to a Facebook message sent to Colorado for Donald Trump 2020, seeking comment on its history of publishing misinformation. 


Press TV UK

150,798 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page that posts a conservative-oriented content and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories 

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

  • February 27 post with a link to an article on RushLimbaugh.com containing the false claim that COVID-19 is similar to the common cold.

In response to an email from NewsGuard seeking comment on PressTV.com’s publication of false content and other issues, the site said in an email that after reviewing NewsGuard’s “assessments about various websites…, unfortunately we do NOT permit NewsGuard to assess or publish a report about PressTV.com”


Now The End Begins

149,184 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page affiliated with NowTheEndBegins.com, a website that connects news stories to Biblical prophecies that has published false stories on a variety of topics. 

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

In response to a NewsGuard email, the site’s owner, Geoffrey Grider, said, “nothing we publish is false.” 


Happy Hayride

149,184 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page that publishes conservative-oriented memes and links to articles.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

NewsGuard did not receive a response to a Facebook message seeking comment from the Happy Hayride Facebook Page about  the post containing COVID-19 misinformation.


American Thinker

139,985 Facebook Page Likes

The Facebook Page of AmericanThinker.com, a website that publishes conservative-oriented news and commentary that has published false and misleading claims in the past.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

  • March 20 post with a link to an article on AmericanThinker.com containing the false claim that COVID-19 is similar to the common cold.

In response to a NewsGuard email, the site’s co-founder and editor, Thomas Lifson, told NewsGuard that the site’s articles about COVID-19 were expressing opinions and were therefore not inaccurate. He also said that a scientific consensus had not been reached about the virus. “Considerable uncertainty still surrounds the entire issue, driven by many factors, not the least of which are the unreliability of Chinese data, and the low levels of testing. None of the material that we publish is intended to be regarded as scientific conclusions from a refereed medical journal.”


For Black Men Only4

137,828 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page that posts memes with social commentary on a variety of topics, including some questioning the need for vaccines and promoting conspiracy theories about Bill Gates.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

  • March 9 post with a link to an article on PressTV.com containing the false claim that COVID-19 is a manmade bioweapon.

NewsGuard did not receive a response to a Facebook message seeking comment about  the post containing COVID-19 misinformation.


vactruth.com

125,054 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page associated with the website VacTruth.com, a site that posts false claims and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about vaccines.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

NewsGuard sent two emails to the site’s general email address and submitted a message on the site’s contact form to inquire about the site’s publication of false and misleading scientific information about  vaccines, but did not receive a response.


Wake up call

114,481 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page that posts false claims and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about vaccines and other topics.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

NewsGuard did not receive a response from the Facebook Page to a Facebook message seeking comment about  the post containing COVID-19 misinformation.


The Great Awakening

110,909 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page that posts false claims and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about vaccines and other topics.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

  • January 30 post with a link to an article on GNews.org containing the false claim that COVID-19 is a man-made bioweapon.
  • February 2 post with a link to an article on HealthImpactNews.com containing the false claim that COVID-19 can be treated with Vitamin C.
  • March 2 post with a link to an article on GreenMedInfo.com containing the false claim that COVID-19 can be cured by colloidal silver.
  • April 7 post with the false claim that COVID-19 was predicted in a simulation.

This Facebook Page does not accept messages through Facebook and NewsGuard could not find contact information for the page in order to seek comment.


The D.C. Clothesline

102,998 Facebook Page Likes

A Facebook Page affiliated with DCClothesLine.com, a website providing conservative-oriented commentary that has published false content and misleading headlines.

Examples of COVID-19 Misinformation:

NewsGuard emailed the site’s owner, Dean Garrison, seeking comment on DC Clothesline’s editorial practices. Garrison declined to comment.