Rockingham, Mandurah and Kwinana ‘news’ pages spread COVID lies

Jake DietschSound Telegraph
Preparations made prior to the first COVID-19 vaccinations being administered at the Hyatt Hotel.
Camera IconPreparations made prior to the first COVID-19 vaccinations being administered at the Hyatt Hotel.

Local “crime watch” and “news” Facebook pages are using their platforms to spread dangerous conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

The Kwinana Crime Watch & Community Page, which has nearly 3000 followers, posts numerous times about the virus on most days.

The COVID conspiracies have become so frequent that one exasperated user commented “I guess this is just an anti-vaxx page now”.

The claims range from “UN agenda 2030 it is about depopulating the Earth to 500 million” to false statements about the vaccine’s effectiveness.

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The Kwinana Crime Watch & Community Page
Camera IconThe Kwinana Crime Watch & Community Page Credit: Picture: Jake Dietsch

A post pinned at the top of the site fear-mongers about “this forced vaccinations of an untested product”.

The Kwinana page is run by an elderly woman who declined to reveal her identity and who earnestly believes the vaccine is part of a global conspiracy with links to the Rothschild family, Bill Gates, the Chinese Government and has connections to the “mark of the Beast” mentioned in the Book of Revelations.

“I have put the posts on the page as they are Crimes against humanity,” she told us.

The “Rockingham-Mandurah Breaking News” page also posts about the virus and vaccine to its vastly bigger audience, which stands at about 19,000 followers.

The Rockingham-Mandurah Breaking News Facebook page
Camera IconThe Rockingham-Mandurah Breaking News Facebook page

According to the page’s “About” section, it is “reported” by “CNN iReporter David Fullard”.

CNN iReport was a platform similar to Wikipedia, in which members of the public could contribute pictures and videos and submit stories.

The program was retired in 2015.

The page last week shared a post alluding to the notorious QAnon conspiracy, with the headline “Child Trafficking — Via the COVID Vaccination Scam”.

When reached for comment by the Telegraph, Mr Fullard declined, but went on to claim recent posts about the virus and vaccine “are copied and pasted”.

And when asked if he had concerns the page was spreading misinformation, he replied “fb is misinformation” , “fb is not law”, “fb is not the bible” and “fb is a game”.

Port Kennedy Respiratory Clinic practice principal Dr Eoin McDonnell disagrees COVID misinformation is a game.

“The problem with messages being spread on social media is they are not fact-checked in the same way as it would be on news websites and so misinformation is ripe,” Dr McDonnell said.

“There can be a lot of scaremongering for no reason with the editors or admins of these pages being able to spread rumours and conspiracy theories that people may believe over the true information.

“The ultimate risk is that this misinformation will turn people off COVID vaccination and we will not get the amount of community vaccination and protection that we need.”

Dr Eoin McDonnell.
Camera IconDr Eoin McDonnell. Credit: Holly Thompson/Sound Telegraph/Holly Thompson

Dr McDonnell said information related to public health should be fact-checked by Facebook and admins and owners of pages “should be held responsible”. He recommends visiting the WA Health Department website for accurate information.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the company had investigated posts on the two pages and had “taken action on any content that violates our Community Standards”.

“Our policies prohibit COVID-19 misinformation that could contribute to imminent physical harm, and we also remove false claims about the COVID-19 vaccine that have been debunked or are unsupported by evidence,” she said.

“Facebook pages that repeatedly share these debunked claims may be removed altogether.”

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