Some of you may not be aware that there are people online with fake account names. Shockers! I know! ( that is sarcasm because I am sure you knew this already). Just like Putin, humans like to spy. It doesn’t seem to matter what the issue, there are likely to be spies on both sides. So, when it comes to vaccines, there are people opposed to vaccines lurking in provax groups and there are vaccine advocates lurking in antivax groups. How do I know? Because there are screenshot sharing pages on Facebook. Things provaxers say is for mocking provaxers and Things antivaxers say is for mocking antivaxers. There are others. I am sure this is also done in Reddit and other large chat forums. Believe it or not, this happens in all sorts of groups. We even had fake account/spying issues in sewing groups, when I was actively involved in that online world.
Fake accounts are known as sock puppets and Wiki has a really good definition: “A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception. The term, a reference to the manipulation of a simple hand puppet made from a sock, originally referred to a false identity assumed by a member of an Internet community who spoke to, or about, themselves while pretending to be another person.”
I will freely admit I made a fake Facebook account in order to play the Ville games. Remember those? You used to have to ask your friends for help in order to proceed so it was pretty common practice to have an account just for playing the games. You could go to the Ville forums and make friends with others and then you would only bug players for help, not your real life friends and family. That account is still active, although I long ago stopped playing those games, and is backup for the pages I manage and the groups I help admin. That account does not spy so it is not a sock.
I also once had a sock puppet account and found it surprisingly easy to join the antivax groups, such as Stop Mandatory Vaccines, Vaccine Re-Education, Vaccine Resistance Movement, and others. I never created a fake personality. I merely shared the posts of other, accepted their friend requests, posted neutral things in the groups, such as “try tea tree oil,” always in keeping with my own ideals. I never pretended to have kids or a vaccine injury or lyme disease. I really just lurked, liked a lot of posts and made a ton of friends. Some of the big wig antivaxers friended me and then my friends list exploded. For personal reasons, I deactivated that account almost two years ago and have not lurked since. Honestly, I found it did no good at all. It didn’t help anyone for me to lurk in the antivax groups. Plus, I started back to University and was homeschooling one kid, so I was too busy.
Which brings me to this post. I am not going to share it because I know who the real author is and I don’t want to out her or cause her trouble. I want to address this generically. A post was shown to me from a woman claiming to be having devastating autoimmune and fertility issues and wondering if it could be related to the Gardasil vaccine. It was made known to me that this is a sock account and the real author is someone I know. Reading around the sock puppet account’s public posts, one can see this person has created a whole life for this fake account, with children, lifestyle in her chosen city, family, friends, and activities. This is a huge deception that takes a lot of effort, particularly when you consider that you have to remember what you wrote in order to keep up the deception. My hunch is that this person wants to get into the private “Gardasil injures” groups in order to spy on them and see what they are up to. But why? What good will this do?
We have a hard enough time dispelling Gardasil myths and other vaccine injury myths without having to deal with fake ones. Skeptical Raptor blog, which I greatly admire, spends a lot of time on just this vaccine alone, there are so many myths surrounding it. Should we really have to deal with fake myths made up by provaxers lurking as antivaxers? In my opinion, this kind of deception causes vaccine advocacy harm in that it contributes to the mythology and makes our advocacy harder. This post is probably taken seriously by people opposed to vaccines and will become part of their lore, part of their arsenal to shove at people on the fence to dissuade them from vaccinating.
This kind of deception also makes it really hard for provax advocates to talk seriously to people on the fence. Like Poul Thorson, who stole money from the CDC, this kind of deception could be used against us as a diversion from facts. Poul Thorson was involved in grant writing for a few autism studies and stole money. His illegal actions have put him on a wanted list and he fled the USA and is now back in his home country of Denmark. His actions were illegal and he should be held accountable for them, but they did not affect autism/vaccine research at all. Bringing up him is a diversion.
On the other hand, I could be wrong. Perhaps this kind of spying is necessary to see what antivaxers are up to in their groups. They ban and block provaxers from their groups and pages so this is the only way to see what is going on and knowledge is power. Perhaps, the knowledge gained from spying benefits provax advocacy. I could be wrong that it makes us look bad. Maybe it doesn’t matter what antivaxers think. Maybe we use the weapons we have to best of our abilities?
What do you think? And please, keep in mind that antivaxers do this, too. Americans likely spy on Russians just like Russians spy on us.
Remember to use your critical thinking skills!