Social media platforms have been clamping down on anti-vaccination content during the pandemic, and now one space that seemed to be a momentary haven for anti-vaxxers, Clapper—the “free speech” alternative to TikTok—says that it will do the same.
Anti-vaccination content has been thriving during the pandemic across social media. As the U.S. begins rolling out the coronavirus vaccine to people across the country, vaccine misinformation has become a major focus for tech giants. TikTok, which Clapper emulates, has had issues with anti-vaccine content in the past.
But Clapper has become more popular among conservatives online and people wanting a "free speech" app in the wake of crackdowns by major social media companies following the Capitol riot. The app saw a rise in QAnon related content, and last week the app told the Verge that it was banning videos about the conspiracy theory.
Clapper CEO Edison Chen told the Verge that it did not intend on being overrun with the far-right looking for a new platform. But, that's exactly what happened when Clapper marketed itself as a "free speech" app.
One burgeoning area on Clapper seems to be vaccine conspiracy theories.
Many accounts state that they moved to Clapper after facing TikTok bans, like @antivaxvikki. The account was entirely dedicated to invalidating the COVID-19 vaccine. In several videos the account inaccurately described health issues like developmental delays caused by vaccines.
Other videos from @antivaxvikki had a clear anti-vaccination bent, and the account bio read: "an exvaxxer sharing truth on topics that get me banned on TikTok."
As of last week, the account was no longer active. When asked by the Daily Dot whether the account was deleted or removed, Clapper said the account was "forbidden" by the app. At the time, vaccination misinformation was not specifically listed on Clapper's community guidelines, however, "mis-info" was.
In an email to the Daily Dot late last week, Clapper said that "mis-info about vaccine" was against it's "mission" and that it had added "conspiracy and mis-info to the community guideline."
When the Daily Dot asked whether or not coronavirus vaccine misinformation was prohibited, Clapper said that was "now prohibited on Clapper." Shortly after that, a number of vaccine conspiracy videos were removed from Clapper.
While they now may be removing anti-vaccine content, the app was previously rife with videos criticizing the coronavirus vaccine that were easily searchable.
A video posted last week was captioned: "#covid19 #vaccine is dangerous #liberal policies #Biden is dangerous." It showed a screenshot of a Daily Mail article.
Another video posted last week criticized Facebook for saying they would remove vaccine misinformation, and then went on an anti-vaccination rant saying that "we are being censored and manipulated. Wake the fuck up."
Similarly, an account with 24,000 followers posted a video aimed at furthering "our fight against the COVID vaccines." It shared a post from a "WeLoveTrump" website about "adverse" affects from the vaccine.
One account, with 11,000 followers recently posted a video captioned: "F your vaccine!!!! #AntiVax #Covid #ScamDemic #PlanDemic."
That video showed a local news report from San Diego of an ER doctor testing positive for COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine. That local news report, however, notes that the positive test came after the first of two doses and the doctor may have been exposed before getting that first dose.
Experts have said that even after getting both doses of the vaccine, there is a period where you need to wait for it to become effective.
It appears that these examples have been removed from Clapper. But those videos were far from the only ones.
One video, purporting to show someone making a phone call to vaccine manufacturer Pfizer, claims that their vaccine never achieved Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. The FDA was tasked with clearing the different vaccines for widespread use and it signed emergency approval for Pfizer’s vaccine back in December 2020.
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Meanwhile, another video staged a fake infomercial for COVID-19. The account jokes that soon people who received the vaccine will be qualified for financial compensation similar to other recalled medicines. It was captioned “the commercial everyone is waiting for,” while mocking inaccurate symptoms from the vaccine.
Other anti-vax videos shared misinformation about vaccine deaths or general dissent about getting vaccinated. There also was a sizeable amount of people speculating that the vaccine will be mandatory.
Clapper's apparent willingness—until being confronted with the problem—to allow anti-vaccination videos on the platform stands in stark contrast to other social media platforms. Facebook recently expanded what it would consider false claims about the coronavirus vaccine and other vaccines. However, Facebook and other social media companies have struggled with anti-vaccination content for years.
Meanwhile, TikTok currently bans "false or misleading, including misinformation related to COVID-19 and vaccines and anti-vaccine disinformation more broadly" as part of its community guidelines. TikTok also puts information about the vaccine and the virus in its "COVID-19 information hub" when users search for terms like "covid vaccine."
While Clapper is now deciding to clamp down on anti-vaccine content, it's not that hard to find videos still up and avoiding the change in the guidelines. The Daily Dot found at least six videos criticizing or questioning the vaccine during a quick search over the weekend.