A video of a man saying COVID-19 vaccines makes COVID worse at an Indiana city’s school board meeting is going massively viral on YouTube and Facebook—despite these platforms pledging to combat misinformation about the coronavirus.
Dan Stock calls himself a "functional family medicine physician" and claims to be trained in "immunology and inflammation regulation." In the seven minute clip, he makes several claims about masks, vaccinations, and how the virus spreads that have all been proven false in studies done by the World Health Organization and the National Institute of Health. He says that you "cannot make these viruses go away," because "the natural history of all respiratory viruses" is that they wait until people get sick or "become deranged" with vaccines, and that "people who have recovered from COVID-19 infection actually get no benefit from vaccination at all"—along with several other misleading and incorrect claims about vaccinations and COVID.
Among other things, Stock promotes an "active loading" treatment involving the antiparasitic drug ivermectin as a treatment for COVID. Recently, a meta-analysis and systemic review concluded that ivermectin "is not a viable option to treat COVID-19 patients."
Essentially everything he claims in the board meeting is false and YouTube recently demonetized channels for the DarkHorse podcast due to statements hosts Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying made about ivermectin in particular. YouTube, Facebook, and several other platforms have, however, allowed the video of Stock to reach wide audiences.
A call to Stock’s practice went directly to voicemail, which had the following message: "Because of the overwhelming response to the video of the testimony at the local school board, I'm unable to take your call right now. If you're calling to voice your support, please express yourself to your state and local legislators and know that I am grateful and support you. If you're calling to get a copy of the studies that were given to the school board, I am working to get these loaded to my website."
While at least one version of the video has been taken down for violating YouTube's community and guidelines, there are numerous uploads of this video to be found via a quick search of its keywords, many with several hundred thousand to more than a million views. At least one upload of the video on Facebook has been labeled as “false” and links to a factcheck.org factcheck that notes Stock “baselessly claimed that the COVID-19 vaccines, which have been shown to be safe and effective, ‘fight the virus wrong and let the virus become worse than it would with native infection.’ He also incorrectly said no vaccine prevents infection and contended that people previously infected with COVID-19 do not benefit from vaccination, despite studies that suggest otherwise.”
YouTube claims to ban false information about COVID and vaccines. In March, it removed 30,000 videos with COVID misinformation. But this video has been allowed to run rampant, traveling across Youtube channels to Facebook uploads: According to Media Matters, which examined how the video spread across platforms, it now has 90 million total Facebook engagements, most of which come from YouTube, and three videos in particular that were originally removed from YouTube but have been reuploaded to different channels. Each of those videos gained "at least hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube before they were removed," according to Media Matters' report. Facebook also claims to prohibit COVID misinformation.
From there, the videos have traveled to far-right social platform Gab and anti-vaccination platform Rumble, where they've gotten hundreds of thousands more views.
School board meetings have been a hotspot for the spread of misinformation about COVID, as well as threats against people who speak up in favor of scientifically-proven efforts to combat the virus. On Tuesday, a meeting in Franklin, Tennessee ended with people harassing medical professionals who spoke in favor of masks in schools.
When asked why these videos are still up, a spokesperson for YouTube sent the following statement:
“While we have clear policies to remove harmful COVID-19 misinformation, we also recognize the importance of organizations like school boards using YouTube to share recordings of open public forums, even when comments at those forums may violate our policies. This means that content like the original upload of the Mt. Vernon school board meeting stays up on YouTube. We remove re-uploads that do not include sufficient context or aim to promote misinformation.”