Corona update

Corona is fake

It is a sad truth that any health crisis will spawn its own pandemic of misinformation.

In the 80s, 90s, and 2000s we saw the spread of dangerous lies about Aids – from the belief that the HIV virus was created by a government laboratory to the idea that the HIV tests were unreliable, and even the spectacularly unfounded theory that it could be treated with goat’s milk. These claims increased risky behaviour and exacerbated the crisis.

Now, we are seeing a fresh inundation of fake news – this time around the coronavirus pandemic. From Facebook to WhatsApp, frequently shared misinformation include everything from what caused the outbreak to how you can prevent becoming ill.

At worst, the ideas themselves are harmful – a recent report from one province in Iran found that more people had died from drinking industrial-strength alcohol, based on a false claim that it could protect you from Covid-19, than from the virus itself. But even seemingly innocuous ideas could lure you and others into a false sense of security, discouraging you from adhering to government guidelines, and eroding trust in health officials and organisations.

There’s evidence these ideas are sticking. One poll by YouGov and the Economist in March 2020 found 13% of Americans believed the Covid-19 crisis was a hoax, for example, while a whopping 49% believed the epidemic might be man-made. And while you might hope that greater brainpower or education would help us to tell fact from fiction, it is easy to find examples of many educated people falling for this false information.

Just consider the writer Kelly Brogan, a prominent Covid-19 conspiracy theorist; she has a degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and studied psychiatry at Cornell University. Yet she has shunned clear evidence of the virus’s danger in countries like China and Italy. She even went as far as to question the basic tenets of germ theory itself while endorsing pseudoscientific ideas.

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