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Mon 6 December 2021

The Byline Intelligence Team and The Citizens reveal how anti-lockdown groups can be easy prey to pseudo-scientific theories about the Coronavirus and the impact of vaccines

A mob of anti-vaccine protestors descended on the headquarters of ITN and Channel 4 News and harassed journalists this week. The veteran journalist Jon Snow was verbally abused whilst police escorted him into the ITN building, with protestors calling him a “f***ing rat” and a “paedophile”.

Billed as an “anti-health passport” rally, demonstrators targeted the media – which they see as complicit in a web of deception surrounding the Government’s Coronavirus vaccine policy. 

The demonstration comes less than three weeks after anti-vaxxers drew derision after storming the “wrong BBC building”.

But while a great deal of attention has been paid to the increasingly violent actions of a small number of anti-vaxx and anti-lockdown protesters, less focus has been given to the growing number of organised, legitimate anti-lockdown groups, aiming to gain influence over what they see as a one-sided media and policy environment addressing Coronavirus in the UK. 


The Health Advisory & Recovery Team (HART) is an anti-lockdown organisation that presents itself as “a group of highly qualified UK doctors, scientists, economists, psychologists and other academic experts” who came together “over shared concerns about policy and guidance recommendations relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Many of the group’s members are primarily concerned with the mental health impacts of lockdowns on children and the Government’s mishandling of the pandemic.

However, research from The Byline Intelligence Team (BITE) and The Citizens, using leaked chat logs obtained by Logically, suggest that it has been used as a channel for disinformation. 

A spokesperson for HART told Logically that during their leaked group chats “HART members believed they were debating, in confidence, their wide-ranging perspectives and hypotheses on the scientific advice informing the Government’s pandemic policies, as well as informing HART’s strategy.”

But whether they were unwitting, speculative or tentative, Byline Intelligence Unit has discovered five well-known, debunked conspiracy theories regarding COVID-19, which have been endorsed or cited by HART members.  


Vaccines Are Bioweapons

There has been a growing trend in online disinformation groups to present the idea that Coronavirus vaccines are “bioweapons” designed to harm recipients or to spread “super strains” killing the unvaccinated.  

Tweets reveal that Dr Liz Evans, a former GP registrar and prominent member of HART, shared a video in which “five doctors agree that COVID-19 injections are bioweapons,” telling other group members to “ignore the dramatic headline – there was a lot of thoughtful and intelligent discussion and science in the video.” 

The video in question involves a discussion between five doctors who “believe that these shots are NOT vaccines, but bioweapons designed to kill human beings.”

Viewers are invited to “share this video with as many people as you can” so they can “be informed of the evil effects of these injections that are being censored in the corporate media and Big Tech social media.”

One of the “five doctors” is Carrie Madej, an osteopath known for spreading disinformation through social media. Madej has previously claimed vaccines will change our DNA and “hook us all up to an artificial intelligence interface.”

This theory, which suggests complicity among politicians, scientists, doctors and policymakers to harm large swathes of the population, interweaves with many other popular conspiracies gaining a footing in online communities. It has led to the idea that medical professionals around the world will face a ‘Nuremberg 2.0’ for their complicity in a ‘global genocide.’ 

This idea has also been circled in HART chat logs. Members have urged others to “stop the genocide”, and warned doctors and nurses that “I was just following orders” was no defence during the Nuremberg Trials. 


5G Causes Coronavirus

A popular conspiracy theory surrounding the virus has been that 5G – the new generation of technology for mobile networks – either causes COVID-19 through wireless frequencies, or that these signals “impair the human immune system.”

Although the theory has been debunked by major health organisations it remains popular in some online communities and may have led to arson attacks on telecom masts in the UK and Europe during 2020.

Tweets from publicly acknowledged members of HART share the work by Tomas Cowan, a San Francisco doctor who surrendered his medical license after promoting a range of Coronavirus-related disinformation. Cowan regularly pushes the idea that 5G might be the cause of the virus. 

Other members of HART have also discussed 5G’s “negative impact on health.” One member casually floated the idea that Covid transmission may be down to “5G after all…”


Vaccine Magnetism

The conception that vaccines “made you magnetic” became a viral trend on social media sites like TikTok and Instagram earlier this year. Organised under the tag #magnetchallenge, the fad involves individuals sticking magnets to their arms immediately after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine – spreading the theory that it contains a microchip.

Although the theory has been widely cited as false – even by those who posted viral #magnetchallenge videos – the belief that COVID-19 vaccines can cause magnetism remains. 

Leaked HART chat logs reveal such an interest in this particular conspiracy that a separate channel was created to discuss theories. Although there is no mention of microchipping, members of the group suggest that the cause of magnetism is the inclusion of graphene oxide within vaccine doses, despite a distinct lack of evidence.  


Vaccines Cause Miscarriages

The Daily Expose, a UK blog, posted a headline in May of this year suggesting that there had been a 2000% increase in the number of miscarriages in the UK as a result of the vaccine rollout. The theory was widely shared, despite the fact there is no evidence to suggest the vaccine has had an adverse impact on prenatal health or the rate of miscarriages.

However, members of HART have regularly posted links to articles and videos highlighting “anecdotal reports of menstrual irregularities/miscarriages” while challenging the validity of academic studies which counter this theory. 


Bill Gates

The billionaire founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, is often closely linked to a wide variety of conspiracy theories and the vaccine has proved no exception. His position as “the face of public health” as a result of his philanthropic work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has led to a myriad of conspiracy theories suggesting Gates may have had a nefarious involvement in engineering the virus and profiting from its spread.

Although such conspiracies have no basis in fact and have been widely debunked, Bill Gates’ name appears more than 30 times in HART chat logs as part of theories highlighting the “psychopathic plans” of “our overlord” which range from profiteering to involvement with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).


Whilst it has been easy to dismiss anti-vaxx street protests as an unorganised mob of confused conspiracy theorists, members of more thoughtful groups like HART, risk legitimising wild theories and allowing them to reach a much wider audience.  

The leaked chat logs also reveal a concerted effort among HART members to contact MPs and journalists in order to push their agenda onto a wider audience and gain access to the policy landscape.

When doing so, HART typically avoids drawing attention to the conspiracy theories that populate its online forums. One member expressly advised “removing terms like genocide and Gates stuff” when HART looked to contact Edinburgh University, fearing it would raise concern “about reputational risk.”

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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