Misinformation related to the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic
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A conspiracy theory is an explanation for an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy by sinister and powerful groups, often political in motivation, when other explanations are more probable. The term has a pejorative connotation, implying that the appeal to a conspiracy is based on prejudice or insufficient evidence. Conspiracy theories resist falsification and are reinforced by circular reasoning: both evidence against the conspiracy and an absence of evidence for it are re-interpreted as evidence of its truth, whereby the conspiracy becomes a matter of faith rather than something that can be proved or disproved.
Research suggests that conspiracist ideation—belief in conspiracy theories—can be psychologically harmful or pathological and that it is correlated with psychological projection, paranoia and Machiavellianism. Conspiracy theories once limited to fringe audiences have become commonplace in mass media, emerging as a cultural phenomenon of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Psychologists attribute finding a conspiracy where there is none to a mental illness called illusory pattern perception.
Misinformation related to the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic
After the initial outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), conspiracy theories, misinformation, and disinformation emerged regarding the origin, scale, prevention, treatment, and other aspects of the disease. Disinformation and misinformation can be spread through social media, text messages, as well as the state media of some countries, and they may be propagated by celebrities, politicians other prominent public figures.
Medical misinformation about ways to prevent, treat, and self-diagnose coronavirus disease has circulated on social media. Some false claims may be commercial scams offering at-home tests, supposed preventives, and “miracle” cures. The World Health Organization has declared an “infodemic” of incorrect information about the virus, which poses risks to global health.
Some misinformation and disinformation claimed the virus was a bio-weapon with a patented vaccine, a population control scheme, or the result of a spy operation. Some of these misinformation and conspiracy theories may have state involvement. Some world leaders have also downplayed the threat of the virus and disseminated misinformation.
In February 2020, BBC reported that conspiracy theorists on social media groups alleged a link between coronavirus and 5G mobile networks, claiming that Wuhan and Diamond Princess outbreaks were directly caused by electromagnetic fields and the introduction of 5G and wireless technologies. Some conspiracy theorists also alleged that the coronavirus outbreak was cover-up for a 5G-related illness. In March 2020, Thomas Cowan, a holistic medical practitioner who trained as a physician and operates on probation with Medical Board of California, alleged that coronavirus is caused by 5G, based on the claims that African countries were not affected significantly by the pandemic and Africa was not a 5G region. Cowan also falsely alleged that the viruses were wastes from cells that are poisoned by electromagnetic fields and historical viral pandemics coincided with the major developments in radio technology. The video of his allegations went viral; both the claims and the video, which were endorsed by singer Keri Hilson, were criticized on social media and debunked by Reuters, USA Today, Full Fact and American Public Health Association executive director Georges C. Benjamin.
Engineers working for Openreach have had to resort to posting pleas on anti-5G Facebook groups asking to be spared abuse as they are not involved with maintaining mobile networks. Mobile UK said that the incidents were affecting attempts to maintain networks that support home working and provide critical connections to vulnerable customers, emergency services and hospitals. A widely circulated video shows people working for broadband company Community Fibre being abused by a woman who accuses them of installing 5G as part of a plan to kill the population.
After telecommunications masts in several parts of the United Kingdom were torched, British Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said the theory that COVID-19 virus may be spread by 5G wireless communication is “just nonsense, dangerous nonsense as well.” Vodafone announced that two Vodafone masts and two it shares with O2 had been targeted.
YouTube announced that it would reduce the amount of content claiming links between 5G and coronavirus. Videos that are conspiratorial about 5G that do not mention coronavirus would not be removed, though they might be considered “borderline content”, removed from search recommendations and losing advertising revenue. The discredited theories had been shared online by several celebrities, including David Icke.
> From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I regret to inform you Woody Harrelson is posting 5G coronavirus conspiracy theories on Instagram.— Ryan Broderick (@broderick) April 2, 2020
The video also isn’t “the Chinese taking 5G antennas down,” it’s from the Hong Kong protests. pic.twitter.com/y4RpOMJi9T
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