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#DoNotComply gained traction after Daily Wire used it over sixty times, promoting subscriptions
Before the Daily Wire’s adoption, the hashtag hadn’t broken one thousand likes for a single tweet.
From September 10 to November 18, 2021, the Daily Wire promoted paid subscriptions on Twitter using the hashtag DoNotComply in at least sixty tweets.1 DoNotComply is an anti-vaccine hashtag that gained traction in late 2021. The traction appears to be related to the Daily Wire’s use of the hashtag.
The promotion using DoNotComply began in September 2021. September 2021 is also when we found an increase in the number of retweets and likes associated with the hashtag. Before the Daily Wire’s adoption, the hashtag hadn’t broken one thousand likes for a single tweet.
On the first day of the promotion, realDailyWire—the Daily Wire’s Twitter handle— used the hashtag five times, with one tweet breaking the 1000-like threshold.2 The account then tweeted the DoNotComply promotions almost daily until November 18.3 Personalities affiliated with the Daily Wire like Candace Owen and Gina Carano received tens of thousands of likes and retweets for DoNotComply tweets.
Candace Owen was the most-retweeted US-based user—for cumulative retweets—in the DoNotComply hashtag data.
The Daily Wire’s Gina Carano had the single most-liked tweet using DoNotComply.
Carano also appeared in realDailyWire’s single most successful subscription promotion tweet, which used the same picture on the same day, November 4, 2021.
Disappearing data provide a simple, objective metric that can help to assess whether a tweet received an inauthentic boost. Hoaxlines evaluates data decay by archiving a tweet after it reaches peak engagement. Generally, this is any time after the first few days, as it can take a day or two for tweets to reach peak totals. After several months, researchers return to the tweet and archive the tweet again or take a screen capture for comparison.
If the original archive has significantly more retweets and likes, that may indicate a tweet received an inauthentic boost. The number decline between screen captures may reflect Twitter removing users violating policy, like those with bot-like traits engaging in platform manipulation.
From November 14, 2021, to January 24, 2022, the tweet from Candace Owen declined by 896 likes and 271 retweets. While we do not assert that inauthentic activity explains the discrepancy, Hoaxlines also struggled to find an alternate explanation. We did not spend considerable time collecting evidence of data decay for this report but felt the example had research value.
Studies examining the spread of misinformation on Twitter have found that if a tweet receives a surge of engagement shortly after posting, this early engagement can help users game the algorithm. This form of platform manipulation can lead to a tweet being more widely distributed, sometimes to those who do not already follow the author.
Facebook and other platforms
The Daily Wire is one of the most popular conservative outlets, netting millions of views on Facebook and Twitter. Although this report covers Twitter traffic, the Daily Wire is extremely popular on Facebook, where it also shared this message. The most popular DoNotComply content piece anywhere, according to Buzzsumo, was a Daily Wire article that received just under 190,000 engagements.
Nearly all of the engagement tied to this Daily Wire article came from Facebook, which illustrates how different platforms might be leveraged for different purposes. Researchers have studied the Daily Wire’s popularity on Facebook because it receives exponentially more engagements than many more credible outlets combined. One researcher put the degree of popularity on Facebook into perspective:
In May, The Daily Wire generated more Facebook engagement on its articles than The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC News and CNN combined.
Why does #DoNotComply matter?
Uncertainty increases vaccine hesitancy. This hashtag has ranked in trending topics on Twitter multiple times, meaning a much wider audience is exposed to this message which urges people not to comply with vaccine mandates. The impression of many more people embracing the DoNotComply hashtag could leave more people feeling uncertain about vaccine safety, leading them not to vaccinate.
Delaying or forgoing the vaccine has had deadly consequences for the United States. That the Daily Wire’s conservative audience and vaccine-hesitant groups likely have considerable overlap means a maximized potential for harm. Research examining the early pandemic and media content found that messaging increased the number of cases and deaths in a location.
The US has already suffered a tremendous number of vaccine-preventable deaths, and all of these have a cost on society. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in December 2021:
We also estimate that 163,000 COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented by vaccination since June 2021, when safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines were widely available to all adults in the U.S.
A subsequent analysis estimated that from, “June through November 2021, preventable COVID-19 hospitalizations among unvaccinated adults cost over $13 billion.”
We searched tweets containing “DoNotComply” from January 2021 to January 2022 using the WeVerify.eu plugin’s Twitter SNA feature, which collects historical Twitter data for analysis.
Our search returned 759,006 likes, 184,149 retweets, and 15,956 tweets. The WeVerify app automatically reports basic metrics concerning the data like the most retweeted tweets, most liked tweets, and most active users.
Daily Wire tweets using DoNotComply and promoting paid subscriptions.
RealDailyWire tweets on September 9, 2021
See footnote 1
Three DoNotComply tweets factored into Candace Owen’s ranking.
The last tweet originally quote tweeted DiscloseTV. The tweet has since been deleted but the tweet was still in archives.