The Delta misinformation loop

The Delta misinformation loop
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Islam News – As coronavirus cases soar, so too are online lies about Covid-19 and the vaccines designed to stop it.

Misinformation experts told our colleague Davey Alba, who covers technology, that people who peddle in untruths have seized on the spike in cases from the Delta variant to spread new and rehashed false narratives.

Some of the most prevalent pandemic falsehoods, according to a company that tracks misinformation: vaccines don’t work (up 437 percent); they contain microchips (up 156 percent); and that people should rely on their “natural immunity” instead of getting vaccinated (up 111 percent). Some of the most prominent purveyors of misinformation include Andrew Torba, the chief executive of the alternative social network Gab, and Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician.

“We’ve seen the same names over and over in the past year,” Davey said. “A lot of them shifted from virus misinformation to election misinformation, and then to virus misinformation again. They often seize on news events to elevate themselves and get their names in the conversation.”

The more savvy spreaders know blatant lies could get them banned on social media platforms, Davey said, “so they frame a lot of their posts as just asking questions, or they cherry pick certain outlier cases.”

Conspiracy theories also spread on fringe platforms before moving into more mainstream sites like Facebook, which has struggled to eradicate health misinformation during the pandemic.

Our colleague Nicole Hong recently encountered a woman in New York City who rebuffed her employer’s request that she get vaccinated. To explain her decision, she said the film “I Am Legend” shows how a vaccine could cause millions of people to turn into zombies — a meme that people opposed to vaccines have circulated widely on social media. (The movie’s screenwriter recently weighed in on Twitter: “Oh. My. God. It’s a movie. I made that up. It’s. Not. Real.”)

Even for those who follow the news closely, it can be confusing to follow the ever-evolving virus and the attempts to defeat it. It’s in those gaps of understanding that misinformation can flourish — and for as long as the pandemic lasts, that dynamic is sure to continue.

“The new wave of misinformation is obviously caused by the Delta variant,” Davey added. “But you can expect that there will be another surge when there’s another variant.”

Source: The New York Times


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