Fake News And Public Trust


Misinformation about Covid-19 – like the pandemic itself – has gone global. Did the virus even exist? Or was it created in a Chinese lab? What if the vaccine contained a chip developed from Microsoft to keep track of the virus? According to a swissinfo.ch article, Swiss conspiracy theorists and alternative media have been amplified, as they exploit social media platforms to spread rumours and obtain a bigger audience. “Infodemic” is a new term that has been developed by the World Health Organization to describe the over-abundance of information obtained from social media, some accurate and some not, that results in the difficulty for the audience to find trustworthy information and sources. Unverified claims and information about the origin of the virus have had fact-checkers and public authorities into alert as people spread information about the symptoms and potential cures, among others. According to a study published by the British Medical Journal, more than a quarter of Youtube videos contain misleading information about Covid-19.

Public trust

Videos by conspiracy theorists published mainly on social media by influencers have led to a lack of trust from the audience in public institutions. A fashion heiress in Geneva has used her approach to urge her followers to stop wearing masks even though authorities have continuously told the citizens not to stop. There has been a lot of uncertainty among authorities, researchers, influencers and this has been reflected in the level of trust of the population. According to a poll published by Tamedia, 8% of the Swiss population believes that Bill Gates was involved in the creation of the virus, while 30% believe the virus was created in a laboratory. The Covid-19 Infodemics Observatory that estimates the probability for a user of any social media platform to potentially use sources of misinformation about COVID-19, has collected millions of tweets that indicate that Twitter is the main vehicle of fake news since early on in the outbreak of coronavirus in Switzerland. 40% of the tweets come from unverified users or bots that are mainly responsible for spreading false information or unreliable news. Actually, Manlio DeDomenico who is in charge of the observatory at The Complex Multilayer Network Lab of the Fondazione Bruno Kessler concluded that fake news about Covid didn’t affect Switzerland as much as Italy, Germany or the U.S.

Is there a link between 5G and Covid-19?

What if 5G network could lower your immunity system and give you more chances to catch the virus? Or what if 5G directly caused Covid-19? These two conspiracy theories combine 5G and Covid. Although anti-5G groups already existed before, the theories they share were amplified with the pandemic. There are several variations of these conspiracy theories, but according to an article written by James Meese, the most notable of them are the claims that Covid-19 is a made up pandemic to cover up the deleterious effects of 5G connection and radiation, or the fact that the virus emerged in Wuhan because the city is the “guinea pig” for 5G. This type of information spread all over social media platforms and affected people’s perception of the virus. One of the examples we can mention is the interview made by a Belgian newspaper “Het Laatste Nieuws” with Kris Van Kerckhoven, who believes 5G is a threat to the world population and affirmed that it is linked to coronavirus. After that article, the conspiracy theory was reinforced. It was spread on dozens of English Facebook pages and videos on Youtube, where they claimed to “reveal the truth”; this theory was shared by influencers with millions of followers and, according to The Guardian, phone masts were vandalised over false 5G claims in the UK.

Active social media users are generally more likely to engage with false or misinformation. In other words, people who are more active and spend more time on these platforms tend to have a more misleading perception of Covid-19. Today, there are no studies proving the relationship between 5G mobile network and the coronavirus. Viruses cannot travel around on radio news or mobile networks, it is spread through respiratory droplets; and coronavirus is spreading in many countries that have no access to 5G network whatsoever.

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