Charity stops Facebook campaign after flood of toxic comments from anti-vaxxers

A charity has ended a Facebook campaign celebrating Covid-19 “heroes” after its posts were flooded with toxic comments by anti-vaxxers.

The Covid-19 support charity covid:aid said it had stopped promoting its Covid Heroes campaign on Facebook after some posters laughed and mocked someone who lost both his parents to coronavirus. They also who compared the charity's volunteers with Nazis and accused the charity of “crimes against humanity”.

Launched in October, the Covid Heroes campaign was intended to recognise and applaud “everyday UK heroes during the pandemic”.

The charity said it allowed the British public to nominate and pay tribute to the individuals doing amazing things to help others through the coronavirus pandemic. 

Each post included a personalised message of thanks to the nominated “hero”.

But soon after launching the charity began receiving a flood of negative responses.

Gavin Perrett, whose parents died in March and April 2020 after contracting the virus, was mocked by some commenters and told that his devastating personal experience of disease was false. 

Perret said: “I’m pretty thick skinned, but I decided I had to step in when the attacks became personal.

“There are probably a lot more people out there like me getting attacked by these faceless trolls. 

“They’re not alone: the more stories we share the more we can support each other, which is why we have to step up and talk about this.”

Other comments compared volunteer vaccinators with the Nazi “Angel of Death” Josef Mengele and warned that the charity, which plays no role in administering vaccines, would be brought to justice under the Nuremberg Code for “crimes against humanity”.

Another declared the pandemic, which has led to more than 165,000 deaths in the UK, “a hoax”, while Bill Gates, communism and accusations of “following the monkeyjizz parable” were also used as reasons to discredit the charity’s campaign. 

Michael MacLennan, founder and chief executive at covid:aid, said: “We weren’t pushing any kind of agenda, there was no vaccine talk, we were just trying to promote people who have been a help during a tremendously tough time. 

“Despite this, a minority of anti-vaxxers immediately started flooding our posts with hateful comments.

“All we wanted to do was celebrate how great people have been to each other throughout the pandemic, which made this toxicity all the more shocking.

“We simply don’t have time to deal with and respond to the flood of negative comments we’ve received – which have far outnumbered positive responses.

“It’s a sad indicator of how many people in the UK have been consumed by conspiracy theories and deceived by disinformation – and has left us worried for what might happen next, when you see the scenes of anti-vaxxer violence in Europe.”

MacLennan said the charity doesn’t have the time to deal with the abuse and it had been highly distressing and dispiriting for everyone at the charity who had witnessed the negativity over the past month.

“We will keep the #CovidHeroes wall up so that those who wish to can still pay tribute to the everyday heroes who have been helping them throughout the pandemic," he said. 

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