The first Plandemic video was a 26-minute deluge of coronavirus conspiracy theories, disinformation, anti-vaccine hysteria, false claims, fearmongering, grievance-airing, and absolutely terrible science. Naturally, it was a huge viral hit and got over 10 million views and shares, driving an already isolated and virus-weary American public straight into paranoia.
And even worse for the fact-checkers of the world, Plandemic was pitched as merely a trailer for a longer movie to come. Its successor, release date TBD, would be a full-length movie that truly blew the lid off the deep state’s evil plan to unleash the coronavirus pandemic onto the population, forcing us all into the slavery of wearing masks and eventually being injected with untested and lethal vaccines. For months, even as the first movie went nuclear, the “promise” of the longer movie never materialized.
Until this week, when it did. And that movie landed with a loud, echoing thud of diminished viewership and non-existent viral traffic.
When Plandemic was released on May 4, major social media companies weren’t prepared for its instant popularity and notoriety. Despite months of COVID-19 conspiracy theories already making the rounds, Plandemic got a foothold in communities poised to spread it. It then exploded unchecked in Facebook groups, many of which have links to the QAnon conspiracy theory, while fact-checkers were falling behind on flagging its myriad claims. Finally, Facebook demoted the film and eventually began removing it. YouTube similarly removed uploads of the film but allowed one to stay on the site for two days, where it piled up over 7 million views. TikTok, Instagram, Vimeo, and others all continued to play whack-a-mole with it, while Plandemic fans uploaded slightly tweaked versions of it, including some they’d filmed with their phones.
But the makers of Plandemic squandered the element of surprise when on Aug. 14 they announced the forthcoming release of Plandemic: Indoctornation, the feature-length film that Plandemic primed the pump for, that would put the final dagger into the deep state’s coronavirus scam once and for all.
But this time, with several days to prepare, the social media platforms were for once ready for disinformation warfare.
Facebook, the source of so much of the viral traffic for Plandemic, almost immediately began blocking the link to the new video, giving users who tried to share it a warning that the URL violated Facebook’s community guidelines on spam. It also began taking down video shares that had already gone up, and warning users who clicked on the video’s original hosting site, although it didn’t block them from actually going there.
Given Facebook’s outsized role in spreading Plandemic, the swift deplatforming of its sequel denied it millions of views and shares. According to CrowdTangle, the initial post with the Plandemic sequel video had about 53,000 interactions on Facebook, while posts of the first film ended up with well over 2 million.
YouTube also aggressively took the video down, making Indoctornation nearly impossible to find by the afternoon of its release. Shares of the full video that did crop up often had just a few hundred views before being taken down. Plandemic fans tried to solve the problem by cutting the movie up into shorter clips to post on YouTube, but those also failed to find audiences and were swiftly removed. A search as of Tuesday night found almost no trace of the film on YouTube.
Twitter also made sure the video didn’t spread unchecked.
It kept the video out of its trending section, reduced its search profile, added links to accurate information from the CDC on searches for it, and put up a warning on links to “FreedomPlatform.TV,” the site where Indoctornation was being hosted. Twitter was still allowing the video to be linked to, but by the night of its release, most of the tweets including the video were obvious spam posts with no engagement.
TikTok and Instagram also blocked users’ ability to share and search for the video, removing even more outlets for the conspiracy-minded to find it. The measures appeared to be working. As of Tuesday night, the original video of Indoctornation on the FreedomPlatform site had been shared about 240,000 times—but its footprint on the major social media sites in the United States and Europe has been negligible. About the only real success, with about 4,000 shares on Facebook, is the link to the video on the far-right video hosting site BitChute, where the video has fewer than 40,000 views.
So far, it looks like Plandemic: Indoctornation won’t have anywhere near the cultural imprint or negative effect of its predecessor. Part of this is due to the swift actions of the social media giants, who got three days to prepare thanks to the film’s producers giving away their release date.
But more than that, coronavirus-exhausted Americans are living vastly different quarantine lives now than they were in May.
Many Americans have ended their isolation and don’t have the endless time on their hands that they had in May, when all of this was still new and strange. And the new movie landed at the same time as school is starting in most of the U.S., leaving millions of parents scrambling to get a handle on a full year of distance learning. People who might have had the time or interest in watching a snappy 26-minute coronavirus conspiracy video don’t have either the time or the interest to watch one that’s nearly an hour-and-a-half—and that, by all accounts, isn’t as interesting and is mostly a more bloated rehash of the first movie’s claims.
So maybe the failure of Indoctornation was aided by the social media giants taking swift action, but its root cause is the same thing that’s plagued so many big sequels in the past: It’s not as good.