Misinformation has always been a major problem in the United States, which could be seen clearly during the 2016 presidential election. It is often the result of a confusing situation and a jumble of information, rumors, misinformation, disinformation, and more. During times of crisis, rumors are rampant due to uncertainty, confusion, and anxiety. Naturally, society attempts to form a collective truth by gathering information and forming a theory of what is actually going on.
Misinformation and disinformation are both false or misleading information. The main distinction between them is that misinformation is shared accidentally while disinformation is spread deliberately, often to push an agenda. This distinction can often be hard to identify in these scenarios, such as the ‘Plandemic’.
The ‘Plandemic’ video contained many false claims and conspiracy theories about the virus and was spread in May 2020. For example, it promoted against masks and the refusal of a COVID-19 vaccine. While these falsehoods had been seen before, this video was a compilation of all these ideas, and made them all accessible in a single place. The ‘Plandemic’ video received vast amounts of views on multiple social media platforms.
But was this intentional? And if it was, what was the reasoning behind it? Dr.Judy Mikovits was the main figurehead of the video. Dr.Mikovits has been discredited several times for making false theories not only related to the coronavirus, such as claiming that vaccines cause autism. Leading up to the video, she had been promoting a book featuring many of the same narratives. In particular, one narrative was an accusation against Dr.Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the acknowledged expert on the pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci
At the time of the book’s release, Dr.Fauci was facing massive amounts of criticism for implementing social distancing procedures that were viewed as harmful to the economy, mainly by conservatives. Dr.Mikovits had made it clear that discrediting and damaging Dr.Fauci’s standing was a personal goal.
Shortly before the ‘Plandemic’ video’s release, a social media movement began to boost Dr.Mikovits took place on multiple platforms. She started a Twitter account that immediately amassed followers. She also started appearing on interviews with news outlets such as The Epoch Times and True Pundit, which have both been known to spread false information in the past.
An analysis of the timeline of the ‘Plandemic’ video shows a high probability for an effort to share Dr.Mikovits’ theories and narratives on COVID-19 to push an anti-Fauci agenda. Sadly, the ‘Plandemic’ video is not the only case of misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, narratives such as ‘COVID-19 is caused by wireless 5G technology’ or ‘COVID-19 was a weapon developed by a foreign country to wreak havoc’ have all made their runs on social media. However, there have also been more “believable” narratives, such as the initial thought that younger people were safe from the coronavirus. It is obvious that the pandemic has caused an infodemic, or an overabundance of information that is not always accurate.
America’s Frontline Doctors
Another example of false information being publicized is a viral video of ‘America’s Frontline Doctors’ pushing a coronavirus vaccine. Breitbart News is a right-wing media outlet, and has been known for posting many falsehoods or misleading information that pushes their conservative political agenda.
On Monday, July 27, Breitbart News posted a video on multiple social media platforms that featured a group of doctors named “America’s Frontline Doctors” who make several claims. The first, is that masks are not necessary to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Additionally, they claimed that hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax are the cures and therefore negate the need for masks.
Hydroxychloroquine is known as an anti-malarial drug and multiple public studies have been conducted showing that it does not affect the condition of patients.
A picture of Hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets
The video went viral with over 14 million views on Facebook, and was shared almost 600000 times. On Monday night, Facebook took the video down for promoting false information on the cures and treatments for COVID-19. On Twitter, the platform Trump is famous for using, the President and others in his circle shared multiple versions of the video, which gained massive amounts of views. Twitter also took these videos down on Monday night in order to combat misinformation. On YouTube, the video had been viewed over 40000 times before it was taken down for violating YouTube’s guidelines on Monday night. These social media platforms have all displayed their efforts in stopping coronavirus misinformation.
It has become more important than ever to find a reliable source of information, especially during these politically-charged times, where both sides may push their agendas. It is highly likely that the pandemic will be used to influence the election’s integrity or the public’s perception of certain candidates. Through this pandemic, it has become especially clear that technology is perhaps the best way to spread information, regardless of how true it is. Ideally, technology and especially social media platforms can use this infodemic as an opportunity to evolve into an unbiased source of news and information.