Right-wing and anti-vax influencers are using Instagram's 'link sticker' to 'monetize their misinformation,' watchdog group says

Right-wing and anti-vax influencers are using Instagram's 'link sticker' to 'monetize their misinformation,' watchdog group says
Multiple influencers known for spreading disinformation have used Instagram's "link sticker" feature to advertise products, according to a new Media Matters report.Shutterstock
  • Anti-vax influencers have used the "link sticker" on Instagram to promote products, a Media Matters report says.
  • The Instagram feature came out in October and lets people add a clickable sticker with a link to their Instagram story.

Right-wing and anti-vaccine influencers known for spreading false information have used Instagram's new "link sticker" feature to "monetize their misinformation," according to a new report from the watchdog group Media Matters for America.

Instagram's "link sticker" debuted in October last year and allows users to place a sticker in an Instagram story that includes a clickable link to bring their followers to an external website.

These individuals have used the feature, Media Matters reported, despite Instagram writing last year on its blog that "accounts that repeatedly share things like hate speech and information" would not be able to use the link sticker.

Instagram is "quietly rolling out a ton of new features in an effort to court creators, and the features are very obviously abusable, but they are taking no steps or precautions to protect against that," Madelyn Webb, a Media Matters associate research director, told Insider.

Instagram did not respond to Insider's request for comment.


Sherri Tenpenny, who was named as part of the Center for Countering Digital Hate's "Disinformation Dozen" — a group of people found to be responsible for a large portion of vaccine misinformation online in early 2021 — had used the feature to promote supplements to her fans, according to the report.

Media Matters also reported Tenpenny and another person identified as part of the Disinformation Dozen, Joseph Mercola, had used the link sticker to urge their Instagram followers to join alternative social media platforms like Clouthub, Telegram, and Gettr, which are associated with right-wing activists and groups.

Tenpenny and Mercola did not return Insider's requests for comment.

Tenpenny used the sticker to link to the supplement website The Good Inside, according to a purported screenshot shared by Media Matters. She used a ban-evading Instagram account to promote the products, according to the report. Tenpenny had previously been banned from the platform more than once for spreading anti-vaccine misinformation, Media Matters reported.

She was also banned from Twitter after she spread the false theory that the COVID-19 vaccine makes people magnetic.


The account that Media Matters reported to be Tenpenny's was no longer available to view on Wednesday.

The anti-vax advocate Robert Kennedy Jr., who was also included in the Disinformation Dozen, used sticker links on an Instagram account for his podcast to promote an Amazon listing of his book, "The Real Anthony Fauci," according to the report.

The book accuses Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, of executing a "historic coup d'etat against Western democracy," according to USA News, and features misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines, the newspaper The Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported.

The Instagram account for Kennedy Jr.'s podcast did not respond to a request for comment.

Other figures mentioned in the report include the right-wing activist Jack Posobiec, whom Media Matters said used a sticker link to promote products for Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO and pro-Trump activist who has repeatedly propagated the false theory that former President Donald Trump was cheated out of victory in the 2020 election.


Lindell and Posobiec did not respond to requests for comment

Aubrey Huff, a former professional baseball player with over 30,000 Instagram followers, also used link stickers to advertise anti-vaccine apparel, according to the report. Huff did not respond to a request for comment.

Webb said her team has seen many anti-vaccine influencers "promoting offline organizing" and "pseudo-science product hawkers that are pushing weird fake cures using this feature to sell things."