covid:aid has stopped promoting its Covid Heroes campaign after receiving offensive comments from anti-vaxxers, with one user comparing its volunteers to Nazis.
The Covid Heroes campaign encourages the public to nominate individuals doing things to help others through the pandemic.
covid:aid, a new UK charity that supports people affected by Covid-19, explained how after posting about the campaign on Facebook, it received a flurry of negative responses.
The charity reported that commenters mocked someone who had lost both parents to Covid-19, claiming that the virus and his personal experience of it was “fake”.
Another user said the charity should be put on trial “for crimes against humanity” for supposedly condoning the Covid-19 vaccine.
However, despite the charity writing about the vaccine before, the Covid Heroes post did not mention the vaccine. Before being deleted due to the backlash, it said: “Know somebody who is doing something extraordinary during the pandemic? Nominate them today to be one of our #CovidHeroes.”
However, anti-vaxxers read it as an endorsement of the vaccine. One person commented “vaccines can kill you dead don’t get vaccinated” and another called it “not safe”.
One Facebook user commented that Covid-19 was the “biggest hoax in history” and another urged the public to “wake up”. A list of some of the negative comments, taken before the post was deleted, can be accessed here.
In response, the charity has stopped promoting its campaign on Facebook. The founder and chief executive of covid:aid Michael MacLennan said the charity simply does not have time to deal with the abuse.
MacLennan said: “We intended Covid Heroes to be a positive moment which could bring the country together – and show the best of what Britain can be.
“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.
“These comments compared those administering the vaccines to Nazis, declared the pandemic which has claimed over 165,000 deaths in the UK ‘a hoax’, and laughed at someone who has lost both his parents to Covid. 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.
“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.”
The charity is keeping the campaign running through its website, but has stopped promoting it through Facebook.
MacLennan added: “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, but we simply don’t have the time to deal with the abuse we have been receiving through promoting the campaign on Facebook, so will have to stop.
“We started as a group of volunteers wanting to positively support others at a difficult time, and it’s been highly distressing and dispiriting for all those at covid:aid who have witnessed this slew of negativity over the past month.”