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Banned Anti-Vax ‘Menace’ Larry Page Is Back on Elon Musk’s Twitter and Selling ‘Vaccine Cures’

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Banned Anti-Vax ‘Menace’ Larry Page Is Back on Elon Musk’s Twitter and Selling ‘Vaccine Cures’

Larry Cook, a prominent anti-vax activist who was banned from numerous social media platforms including Facebook for spreading QAnon conspiracy theories, has returned to Twitter, where he is using his verified status to sell expensive “vaccine cures.”

A longtime anti-vaxxer, Cook is a former naturopath who resigned as executive director of the California Naturopathic Doctors Association in 2016 to “educate as many parents and others as possible about the dangers of vaccination.”

Among Cook’s many inflammatory claims, he has said vaccines kill babies and children. “Not only can any vaccine given at any age kill your child,” Cook wrote in one ad, “but if this unthinkable tragedy does occur, doctors will dismiss it as ‘Sudden Infant Death Syndrome’ (SIDS)”

Cook is now using his Twitter platform to sell medically dubious products such as “Zeolite Heavy Metal Detox Spray” for $63.83 a month, which he claims “helps clean out the chemicals from the body.” Cook also maintains an Amazon storefront where he earns a commission selling anti-vax books, alongside supplements.

Cook was banned from Facebook and Twitter in November 2020 after using his platform to spread QAnon conspiracy theories. But he has built a new following on Elon Musk’s Twitter 2.0, where he is a verified Twitter Blue user with over 37,000 followers. (Then-Twitter CEO Musk confirmed in April that these verified accounts are prioritized as part of Twitter’s algorithm, meaning they are more likely to be seen by users on the platform.)

“I think it’s a terrible move to bring Cook (and others, such as Naomi Wolf) back to Twitter,” Tara Smith, a professor of epidemiology at Kent State University told The Daily Beast. “All they do is spread disinformation about vaccines—I see Larry’s latest is that vaccines cause “turbo cancer,” whatever that is, and type 1 diabetes. This is absolutely unsupported scientifically, and has no purpose but to enrich Cook’s coffers as it did before he was kicked off multiple social media and fundraising sites. He is a public health menace.”

When asked by The Daily Beast for a response to Smith’s statement, Cook tweeted: “That epidemiologist is lying. Trust parents, not Pharma shill epidemiologists. Or hit pieces by fake news.”

Cook declined to comment further, instead tweeting: “I don’t respond to these hit piece requests anymore.”

After his social media ban in 2020, Cook built a more explicitly right-wing online presence, founding a spin-off group called “Medical Freedom Patriots,” which he described as “Pro Donald Trump,” “QAnon Friendly” and “Anti Vaccine.”

His current Twitter presence has expanded beyond anti-vaccine misinformation, and into a number of right-wing talking points. In recent weeks, Cook has tweeted criticism of gender-affirming care for minors and trans people participating in sport, called COVID a “scamdemic,” and claimed the wildfires raging in Canada are the work of “Black op eco terrorists to supercharge the climate change narrative.”

“Larry Cook was one of the most prolific and dangerous superspreaders of anti-vaccine misinformation during the Covid pandemic–which allowed him to raise huge amounts of cash by peddling deadly lies,” Callum Hood, head of research at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, told The Daily Beast in a statement. In 2021, Cook was highlighted as a “Pandemic Profiteer” by The Center For Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).

“When he took over Twitter, Elon Musk put up the ‘Bat Signal’ to all manner of disinformation actors and extremists, encouraging them to flood back onto Twitter. It is more than happy to give a huge algorithmic boost to anyone as long as they cough up $8 a month–no matter how toxic they are,” Hood continued. “Malicious, self-interested actors like Cook are permitted—even incentivized—to peddle extreme propaganda by exploitative social media platforms that offer them direct access to captive audiences of paying followers.”

Initially Cook focused his efforts on building a community on YouTube and Facebook, where his group “Stop Mandatory Vaccination” was one of the site’s largest anti-vax communities, with 195,000 members by 2020. In November of that year, Cook’s Facebook group was shut down and he was booted off Twitter as both companies attempted to curb the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories on their platforms.

It was not Cook’s anti-vax activism that ultimately got him kicked off Facebook, but his support for QAnon, which violated the company’s policies designed to “address militarized social movements and violence-inducing conspiracy networks,” Newsweek reported.

“I put a huge—and I mean HUGE—amount of effort building my audience on Facebook. I lived on Facebook. When I learned about [QAnon], I got active on Twitter as well,” Cook posted on the conservative social media site Parler after his removal. “Remember we are at war. This is Good vs Evil. Pray, and Pray Big every day.”

Cook has long been able to harness the power of social media to reach new audiences. He ran multiple GoFundMe campaigns, raising around $80,000 before anti-vax campaigns were banned by the site in 2019. One campaign alone amassed $56,636. At the time Cook said the funds would go towards building a website and interviewing parents who believe their children were injured by vaccines. Another GoFundMe campaign in 2020 claimed the medical community was covering up baby deaths.

Cook also spent thousands of dollars of targeted Facebook ads. In 2019, The Daily Beast found that Cook spent a total of $5,302 on 54 advertisements on the platform between May 2018 and March 9, 2019, according to Facebook’s ad archive.

“I’m a full-time activist,” Cook told The Daily Beast in a phone interview in 2019, when asked about money he was raising. “I’m not a nonprofit. I don’t need to report any income—we are in a capitalist society and anyone can raise and spend how we want.”

That year, Cook took out a series of Facebook ads targeting parents in Washington State, where more than 50 people had been infected in a measles outbreak.

“Are you concerned about vaccines? What about MANDATORY VACCINATION, like what’s being proposed in WA State and other states? Should our children REALLY be force vaccinated?” one of the removed ads read. “Read this tragic story and then join our group Stop Mandatory Vaccination if you want truthful answers that your pediatrician and mainstream media will never tell you.”

Facebook later removed Cook’s ads, citing their vaccine misinformation policies.

“Several of these ads contained verifiable hoaxes identified by leading global health organizations like the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and were removed,” Devon Kearns, who worked in policy communications at Facebook, told The Daily Beast in March 2019.

In November 2019, the journal Vaccine found that the majority of Facebook ads spreading misinformation about vaccines were the work of only two groups—Robert F Kennedy Jr’s “World Mercury Project” and Larry Cook’s “Stop Mandatory Vaccinations.”

Cook came under fire in February 2020, after a Colorado mother posted in his “Stop Mandatory Vaccination” Facebook group looking for advice for her 4-year-old son who was sick with the flu. The child was prescribed Tamiflu by a doctor, but posters in the group encouraged his mother not to give the boy the medication. Instead, they recommended “Vitamin D and C, Elderberry, Zinc,” and fruits and vegetables, according to CBS News. The child later died.

In response, Cook posted in the group blaming the death on Children’s Hospital Colorado Springs, who he said “never offered any real treatments that would have likely cured her boy.”



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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

LAHORE, Pakistan — A court in Pakistan granted bail to a Christian falsely charged with blasphemy, but he and his family have separated and gone into hiding amid threats to their lives, sources said.

Haroon Shahzad (right) with attorney Aneeqa Maria. | The Voice Society/Morning Star News

Haroon Shahzad, 45, was released from Sargodha District Jail on Nov. 15, said his attorney, Aneeqa Maria. Shahzad was charged with blasphemy on June 30 after posting Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in Chak 49 Shumaali, near Sargodha in Punjab Province, to flee their homes.

Lahore High Court Judge Ali Baqir Najfi granted bail on Nov. 6, but the decision and his release on Nov. 15 were not made public until now due to security fears for his life, Maria said.

Shahzad told Morning Star News by telephone from an undisclosed location that the false accusation has changed his family’s lives forever.

“My family has been on the run from the time I was implicated in this false charge and arrested by the police under mob pressure,” Shahzad told Morning Star News. “My eldest daughter had just started her second year in college, but it’s been more than four months now that she hasn’t been able to return to her institution. My other children are also unable to resume their education as my family is compelled to change their location after 15-20 days as a security precaution.”

Though he was not tortured during incarceration, he said, the pain of being away from his family and thinking about their well-being and safety gave him countless sleepless nights.

“All of this is due to the fact that the complainant, Imran Ladhar, has widely shared my photo on social media and declared me liable for death for alleged blasphemy,” he said in a choked voice. “As soon as Ladhar heard about my bail, he and his accomplices started gathering people in the village and incited them against me and my family. He’s trying his best to ensure that we are never able to go back to the village.”

Shahzad has met with his family only once since his release on bail, and they are unable to return to their village in the foreseeable future, he said.

“We are not together,” he told Morning Star News. “They are living at a relative’s house while I’m taking refuge elsewhere. I don’t know when this agonizing situation will come to an end.”

The Christian said the complainant, said to be a member of Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and also allegedly connected with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, filed the charge because of a grudge. Shahzad said he and his family had obtained valuable government land and allotted it for construction of a church building, and Ladhar and others had filed multiple cases against the allotment and lost all of them after a four-year legal battle.

“Another probable reason for Ladhar’s jealousy could be that we were financially better off than most Christian families of the village,” he said. “I was running a successful paint business in Sargodha city, but that too has shut down due to this case.”

Regarding the social media post, Shahzad said he had no intention of hurting Muslim sentiments by sharing the biblical verse on his Facebook page.

“I posted the verse a week before Eid Al Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice] but I had no idea that it would be used to target me and my family,” he said. “In fact, when I came to know that Ladhar was provoking the villagers against me, I deleted the post and decided to meet the village elders to explain my position.”

The village elders were already influenced by Ladhar and refused to listen to him, Shahzad said.

“I was left with no option but to flee the village when I heard that Ladhar was amassing a mob to attack me,” he said.

Shahzad pleaded with government authorities for justice, saying he should not be punished for sharing a verse from the Bible that in no way constituted blasphemy.

Similar to other cases

Shahzad’s attorney, Maria, told Morning Star News that events in Shahzad’s case were similar to other blasphemy cases filed against Christians.

“Defective investigation, mala fide on the part of the police and complainant, violent protests against the accused persons and threats to them and their families, forcing their displacement from their ancestral areas, have become hallmarks of all blasphemy allegations in Pakistan,” said Maria, head of The Voice Society, a Christian paralegal organization.

She said that the case filed against Shahzad was gross violation of Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which states that police cannot register a case under the Section 295-A blasphemy statute against a private citizen without the approval of the provincial government or federal agencies.

Maria added that Shahzad and his family have continued to suffer even though there was no evidence of blasphemy.

“The social stigma attached with a blasphemy accusation will likely have a long-lasting impact on their lives, whereas his accuser, Imran Ladhar, would not have to face any consequence of his false accusation,” she said.

The judge who granted bail noted that Shahzad was charged with blasphemy under Section 295-A, which is a non-cognizable offense, and Section 298, which is bailable. The judge also noted that police had not submitted the forensic report of Shahzad’s cell phone and said evidence was required to prove that the social media was blasphemous, according to Maria.

Bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US $350) and two personal sureties, and the judge ordered police to further investigate, she said.

Shahzad, a paint contractor, on June 29 posted on his Facebook page 1 Cor. 10:18-21 regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.

A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups and accused Shahzad of likening Muslims to pagans and disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice.

Though Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, the situation became tense after Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers telling people to gather for a protest, family sources previously told Morning Star News.

Fearing violence as mobs grew in the village, most Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.

In a bid to restore order, the police registered a case against Shahzad under Sections 295-A and 298. Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.

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Individual + Team Stats: Hornets vs. Timberwolves

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CHARLOTTE HORNETS MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on X: Facebook – All Hornets X – …

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What went wrong with ‘the Metaverse’? An insider’s postmortem

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What went wrong with 'the Metaverse'? An insider's postmortem


It’s now two years since Facebook changed its name to Meta, ushering in a brief but blazing enthusiasm over “the Metaverse”, a concept from science fiction that suddenly seemed to be the next inevitable leap in technology. For most people in tech, however, the term has since lost its luster, seemingly supplanted by any product with “artificial intelligence” attached to its description. 

But the true story of the Metaverse’s rise and fall in public awareness is much more complicated and interesting than simply being the short life cycle of a buzzword — it also reflects a collective failure of both imagination and understanding.  

Consider:

The forgotten novel

Ironically, many tech reporters discounted or even ignored the profound influence of Snow Crash on actual working technologists. The founders of Roblox and Epic (creator of Fortnite) among many other developers were directly inspired by the novel. Despite that, Neal Stephenson’s classic cyberpunk tale has often been depicted as if it were an obscure dystopian tome which merely coined the term. As opposed to what it actually did: describe the concept with a biblical specificity that thousands of developers have referenced in their virtual world projects — many of which have already become extremely popular.

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Snow Crash.

You can see this lack of clarity in many of the mass tech headlines attempting to describe the Metaverse in the wake of Facebook’s name change: 

In a widely shared “obituary” to the Metaverse, Business Insider’s Ed Zitron even compounded the confusion still further by inexplicably misattributing the concept to TRON, the original Disney movie from the 80s.

Had the media referenced Snow Crash far more accurately when the buzz began, they’d come away with a much better understanding of why so many technologists are excited by the Metaverse concept — and realize its early incarnation is already gaining strong user traction.  

Because in the book, the Metaverse is a vast, immersive virtual world that’s simultaneously accessible by millions of people through highly customizable avatars and powerful experience creation tools that are integrated with the offline world through its virtual economy and external technology. In other words, it’s more or less like Roblox and Fortnite — platforms with many tens of millions of active users. 

But then again, the tech media can’t be fully blamed for following Mark Zuckerberg’s lead.

Rather than create a vision for its Metaverse iterating on already successful platforms — Roblox’s 2020 IPO filing even describes itself as the metaverse — Meta’s executive leadership cobbled together a mishmash of disparate products. Most of which, such as remotely working in VR headsets, remain far from proven. According to an internal Blind survey, a majority of Zuckerberg’s own employees say he has not adequately explained what he means by the Metaverse even to them.

Grievous of all, Zuckerberg and his CTO Andrew Bosworth promoted a conception of the Metaverse in which the Quest headset was central. To do so, they had to overlook compelling evidence — raised by senior Microsoft researcher danah boyd at the time of the company acquiring Oculus in 2014 — that females have a high propensity to get nauseous using VR.

Meta Quest 3 comes out on October 10 for $500.
Meta Quest 3.

Contacted in late 2022 while writing Making a Metaverse That Matters, danah told me no one at Oculus or Meta followed up with her about the research questions she raised. Over the years, I have asked several senior Meta staffers (past and present) about this and have yet to receive an adequate reply. Unsurprisingly, Meta’s Quest 2 VR headset has an estimated install base of only about 20 million units, significantly smaller than the customer count of leading video game consoles. A product that tends to make half the population puke is not exactly destined for the mass market — let alone a reliable base for building the Metaverse. 

Ironically, Neal Stephenson himself has frequently insisted that virtual reality is absolutely not a prerequisite for the Metaverse, since flat screens display immersive virtual worlds just fine. But here again, the tech media instead ratified Meta’s flawed VR-centric vision by constantly illustrating articles about the Metaverse with photos of people happily donning headsets to access it — inadvertently setting up a straw man destined to soon go ablaze.

Duct-taped to yet another buzzword

Further sealing the Metaverse hype wave’s fate, it crested around the same time that Web3 and crypto were still enjoying their own euphoria period. This inevitably spawned the “cryptoverse” with platforms like Decentraland and The Sandbox. When the crypto crash came, it was easy to assume the Metaverse was also part of that fall.

But the cryptoverse platforms failed in the same way that other crypto schemes have gone awry: By offering a virtual world as a speculative opportunity, it primarily attracted crypto speculators, not virtual world enthusiasts. By October of 2022, Decentraland was only tracking 7,000 daily active users, game industry analyst Lars Doucet informed me

“Everybody who is still playing is basically just playing poker,” as Lars put it. “This seems to be a kind of recurring trend in dead-end crypto projects. Kind of an eerie rhyme with left-behind American cities where drugs come in and anyone who is left is strung out at a slot machine parlor or liquor store.”

All this occurred as the rise of generative AI birthed another, shinier buzzword — one that people not well-versed in immersive virtual worlds could better understand.

But as “the Metaverse” receded as a hype totem, a hilarious thing happened: Actual metaverse platforms continued growing. Roblox now counts over 300 million monthly active users, making its population nearly the size of the entire United States; Fortnite had its best usage day in 6 years. Meta continues plodding along but seems to finally be learning from its mistakes — for instance, launching a mobile version of its metaverse platform Horizon Worlds.  

Roblox leads the rise of user-generated content.
Roblox.

Into this mix, a new wave of metaverse platforms is preparing to launch, refreshingly led by seasoned, successful game developers: Raph Koster with Playable Worlds, Jenova Chen with his early, successful forays into metaverse experiences, and Everywhere, a metaverse platform lead developed by a veteran of the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

At some point, everyone in tech who co-signed the “death” of the Metaverse may notice this sustained growth. By then however, the term may no longer require much usage, just as the term “information superhighway” fell away as broadband Internet went mainstream.  

Wagner James Au is author of Making a Metaverse That Matters: From Snow Crash & Second Life to A Virtual World Worth Fighting For 

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Discover our Briefings.

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