Coronavirus related conspiracy theories spread across the internet

Depending on who you talk to, the current coronavirus pandemic might be the natural product of evolution, the result of a lab accident or a biological weapon designed by the Chinese. Lockdown measures to impose social distancing restrictions are responsible measures designed to protect public safety or they’re part of a Democratic Party plot to destroy the economy in order to diminish President Trump’s chances of reelection in November. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, is either a respected medical professional or devious member of the “deep state” who is using the coronavirus (which he may or may not have helped create) to control the public through a mandatory vaccination

And those are just some of the narratives that are spreading within the United States. 

In countries around the world, equally implausible ideas are circulating, derived in part from their particular political and historical situations, but also cross-pollinating with a wide array of conspiracy theories, misinformation and state-sponsored content, ranging from blatant propaganda to more subtle disinformation campaigns. In some cases, the dearth of verifiable information has resulted in the spread of misinformation by fairly reputable and well-intentioned sources. The coronavirus “infodemic,” however, has allowed a host of malign actors — from the Russian government to domestic extremists to scam artists peddling bogus cures — to exploit existing societal fissures for their own political or personal gain. 

A rally against coronavirus policies in Cologne, Germany, May 16, 2020. (Ying Tang/NurPhoto)
A rally against coronavirus policies in Cologne, Germany, May 16, 2020. (Ying Tang/NurPhoto)

“All of that just contributes to this massive, unstoppable flow of information that would be impossible to contend with even for the most resilient society,” said Nina Jankowicz, a fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

In fact, Jankowicz told Yahoo News that other than in countries such as Turkmenistan, where the government has imposed a complete clampdown on any and all information related to the coronavirus, “I can’t imagine a country that would have no proliferation of conspiracy theories or disinformation at this time.”

Disinformation feeds on anxiety and promotes emotional and irrational responses. “I think it’s a common misconception that disinformation creates some sort of new feeling in people,” Jankowicz says. “Often it’s really weaponizing preexisting feelings, or certainly amplifying them.

“So the anti-vax groups, for instance, are going to be more likely to buy into this narrative about the vaccine being somehow an instrument for global control. The folks who are distrustful of the United States, whether that’s in the Middle East, or in China, or Russia, are going to be pawns of their nation’s propaganda machines.” 

You can see that phenomenon at work in internet metadata. In an interview with Politico last month, Joel Meyer of Predata, a predictive analytics firm, said that since the beginning of the pandemic, his firm has observed an increase in traffic from Persian and Hindi-language internet users to websites that are critical of Western medicine and promote alternative healing methods, including unproven supplements. At the same time, Meyer said that “in European languages, including French, German and Italian, anti-vaxxer attention has really spiked recently.”

“We’re seeing interest rise to unprecedented levels in alternative medicines and treatments,” he told Politico, concluding that, based on the analytics, “that type of disinformation is sinking in, it’s having an effect.”

Source: Yahoo News



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