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Quick thread: I don't think most people know what antivaxx posts on Facebook really look like. That's good. Why would you? But I think people assume it's Suzy Turmeric plaintively yelling at you about the microchip, and it’s not. It looks like this. Like code. Or gibberish.
Antivaxxers are calling themselves something, anything else on Facebook. Once they change their group name, the adapt their whole vocabulary to fit it. Here’s a list of codewords for the group of people who don’t “go dancing” — or won’t get the vaxx. Pizza. Beer. Moana.
Antivaxx codewords have two purposes: Most importantly, they stay on Facebook. They’re still a community. But it also offers a sense of belonging, a secret code, a sense of mischief. People feel like they’re getting away with something, part of an ingroup.
No one's quantifying these groups. When Facebook reports on vaccine misinfo, they don’t mention Dance Party’s 40k members. They can't. They don't know it exists. It’s also how these groups actually operate. They know what gets caught by moderation bots. They maneuver around it.
Part of the identity of antivaxxers is beating the system. Here's one group gloating about beating bans last week. Many in the movement are anti-government. After all, they think the country's being poisoned by it. The evasion, the codenames, the hiding is part of the fun.
You may be thinking, “Isn’t this exact kind of ban evasion how terror groups operate?” Yep. The Boogaloo Bois wear igloo patches because they changed their groups to Big Igloo on Facebook to avoid a ban, for one. It’s not new. It’s why it’s weird Facebook isn’t ready for it.
Dressing up antivaxx stuff in code, I think, is at the center of the fight between The White House and Facebook. The WH knows Facebook to be a breeding ground for rumors that end up in real life. Facebook points to some data that says the opposite, but it’s not complete.
But the argument is missing this key detail: There is no big group on Facebook called “The Vaccine’s Got Poison In It and You Shouldn’t Take It.” It’s complicated. The WH and Facebook should look to researchers who have studied these movements for years instead of buckpassing.
There are solutions here. Facebook has to admit it’s a problem, and The White House needs a better solution than yelling at them. Talk to people who know how these groups operate. It’s fixable, or at least more knowable and manageable than politics is letting on.

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