How anti-vaccine groups are camouflaging themselves on Facebook

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Facebook logo. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images

Certain anti-vaccination groups are changing their names on Facebook in an attempt at evading bans from the social network, NBC News reports. Euphemisms include names like "Dance Party" or "Dinner Party," which then signal to members to use coded language and words to fit those themes.

For example, during discussions that typically "perpetuate debunked theories about the vaccines," members write "danced" or "drank beer" to mean "got the vaccine," per NBC News. "Pizza" often refers to Pfizer, and "Moana" to Moderna. Users generally "play around with unofficial language about dancing to create more coded language," NBC News writes. And the charade contains on Instagram — some anti-vax influencers reportedly refer to the vaccinated as "swimmers" and the act of vaccination as "joining a 'swim club.'"

Such tactics have been "ratcheting up" amid increased White House pressure on social media to "do more to contain vaccine misinformation," NBC News writes. But the playbook itself has been around for some time; anti-vaccination activists, as well as other internet extremists, have employed "leetspeak" — or modified language that replaces letters with numbers or symbols — to circumvent online detection before now, as well.

Leetspeak is "part of the culture of anti-vaccination activists," siad Joan Donovan, research director at Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Its rampant usage "underscores" the difficulty Facebook has in containing vaccine and COVID-19 misinformation, writes NBC News. Read more at NBC News.

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