Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram have been cracking down on the spread of COVID misinformation by flagging posts that go against professional and medical advice. But for one woman, this isn’t enough. She is calling for anti-vaxx Instagram influencers to be held accountable for their ‘falsehoods’ and subsequently banned from the platform.
Created on Monday, Sarah Bartolo’s ‘Deplatform Anti-Vaxx Influencers’ petition has already received a staggering 6.8K signatures towards her 7.5K goal. Sarah specifically pinpoints two influencers, Anna Rose Richards (@annarose__co) and Taylor Winterstein (@tays_way_), who have a combined Instagram following of 143K.
According to the petition, they use their platforms to ‘encourage their followers to reject mask-wearing, ignore medical advice from health care professionals, use unproved Covid “cures” like Ivermectin and encourage natural immunity.’
In one of her posts, which Taylor captioned “I will never stop sharing vaccine injury and deaths… even if it gets me kicked off social media”, she posted a thread of people allegedly in her direct messages sharing stories. She also uploaded a quote to her feed that referred to public health measures as a ‘cult’, saying that they ‘use weaponised fear’ and ‘shame-based tactics.’
In a separate post, she indicated that the Covid vaccine was to ‘Boost compliance… Boost control… Boost corruption…’ with a meme that read ‘If the shot doesn’t prevent catching it and it doesn’t prevent spreading it, then what’s a “booster” going to boost?’
Likewise, Anna has taken to her Instagram with a highlight dedicated to Covid to ‘educate’ her followers. There are claims that the Covid numbers are ‘so very false’, reposting of videos from alleged doctors who claim Covid ‘is the biggest human experiment in history’ and calls the Covid protests ‘poignant’.
‘It’s not as simple as “just get the vaccine” so we can all go back to normal’, she said, ‘That’s not going to happen. We need to change the narrative ENTIRELY.’
Sarah believes their messaging is putting vulnerable people at risk. ‘They attend anti-lockdown protests organised by neo-Nazis; proudly live streaming their attendance and encourage their followers to do the same’, Sarah said, before calling the ‘“wellness influencers”’ ‘dangerous and selfish’.
She suggests that the pair share anti-science views and information ‘connected to far-right extremist movements veiled by wellness and spirituality messages’ and claims they both ‘financially profit’ from the misinformation.
While Sarah and many others have reported the influencers’ accounts and posts to Instagram on ‘multiple occasions’, the requests have been ignored. ‘They must be held accountable’, she said, ‘They are literally putting people’s lives in danger and Instagram needs to remove their platforms. They should not be allowed to have this space to share their harmful views.’
A mass of those who signed the petition flocked to the comments to share their reasons why. ‘I am not a health professional nor do I claim to be, hence the reason why I would never go around giving baseless medical advice to people and put them and countless others at risk’, one explained.
Another said they choose to follow the advice of qualified medical professionals, which makes sense. ‘When an influencer studies medical science for years and years and continues to build on their knowledge from medical journals, not random articles on Google, then maybe I’ll listen to them’, he added.
While a third signed the petition to reinforce that Facebook and other social media sites have ‘a social and moral responsibility’ to protect people from ‘dangerous misinformation from unprofessional, untrained attention seekers.’
Indy100 has reached out to the influencers for comment.