Misinformation and conspiracy theories about COVID-19

The Most Bizarre, or Not So Bizarre, Conspiracy Theories Behind COVID-19

It is absolutely natural for anyone to feel anxious amidst the strange and alarming COVID-19 pandemic. After all, the unknown future can get all of us worried about our loved ones. This is also the reason why it’s crucial to keep abreast of the latest updates about the virus. However, that doesn’t mean that we should spend hours on Reddit or 4chan, navigating through the craziest Coronavirus conspiracy theories.

To cope with the looming uncertainty that the future brings, we all need a bit of a laugh to give our minds a break. Well, you will find that the bizarre myths surrounding the novel Coronavirus make for good comic relief. The Karens and Chads of the Internet sure know how to make us stop scrolling through our phones!

So, what is the most probable conspiracy theory behind COVID-19, and what are the ones that are simply cuckoo? Well, we’ve compiled the most eye-catching and head-scratching Coronavirus theories we found online.

COVID Theory #1: The Virus Is Part of Bill Gates’ Ploy Against Anti-Vaxxers

What’s alarming about conspiracy theories is that they constantly evolve. However, when you dissect these plots and subplots, a lot of them seem to point back to Bill Gates. An article published in the New York Times reported that right-wing pundits, anti-vaxxers, and QAnon members had been using Gates’ 2015 Ted talk to pin the origins of the virus to him. In that talk, Gates discussed the Ebola outbreak, warning about a new pandemic that the world was not prepared for. His critics used this presentation to claim that Gates had known about the novel Coronavirus beforehand and even purposely caused it.

Anti-vaxxers also made a variation of this conspiracy theory. They’ve got this idea that Gates engineered the virus as a ploy to vaccinate the general population of the world. An eventual vaccine may be an effective way to prevent the death of tens of millions. However, anti-vaxxers have a different opinion about this. They believe that Gates will use a worldwide vaccination program to implant tracking microchips that will monitor and control people. Because the misinformation spread like wildfire, the ID2020 Alliance, a non-profit organization that focuses on helping financially challenged individuals acquire digital IDs, had to seek the help of the FBI.

COVID Theory #2: The Virus Was Engineered in a Lab

With more and more news about China bullying other countries, conspiracists resorted to speculations that COVID had been engineered in a Chinese laboratory. Pew Research Center reported that 3 in 10 Americans believed that the virus had been made in a lab, either by purpose or by accident. While 6% believed the latter, 23% thought that the COVID-19 was intentionally developed.

The reason why this conspiracy theory quickly gained traction is because right-wing US Sen. Tom Cotton gave it mainstream coverage. He bloated the theories that conservative media outlet The Washington Examiner had previously featured. The article mentioned that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was allegedly connected to a covert biological weapons program from Beijing.

However, a recent study concluded that COVID-19 is a zoonotic virus after it was discovered to have an identical genome sequence to SARS-CoV-2, a disease that came from an animal and moved into the human population. Even the Washington Examiner retracted its earlier statement, posting an addendum on their article and admitting that the theory has no solid claims.

COVID Theory #3: 5G Is Spreading the Virus

Black Mirror may be scary because its fictional plotlines closely resemble reality. However, people have just got to stop using it as a factual basis for their conspiracy theories! Biologically speaking, it is impossible to use the electromagnetic spectrum to spread viruses. Viruses are made up of biological particles that contain nucleic acids and proteins. Meanwhile, the electromagnetic spectrum is composed of waves/photons. So, you don’t have to crush your phones, burn your laptops, and go off the grid.

Despite the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring that viruses cannot be transmitted via mobile networks, conspiracists are still adamant about the theory. It is enticing to these people, especially because they tend to link two events that happened around the same time. The rapid release of 5G networks took place about the same time as COVID-19 cases started to increase exponentially around the world.

When looking at this particular conspiracy theory, it is important to consider why the virus is still quickly spreading in various countries where 5G networks do not exist yet. It’s surprising to know that even celebrities like Wiz Khalifa, Woody Harrelson, and John Cusack fell for this hoax. Because of the mainstream presence of this theory, over 77 mobile towers were burned in the UK.

COVID Theory #4: The Novel Coronavirus Is a Hoax, and It Does Not Exist

Everybody is sensitive when it comes to news about COVID-19, especially since a lot of people have lost their jobs. This is probably the reason why ‘coronavirus deniers’ have been using videos of empty hospital parking lots as evidence in their claim that the virus is an intricately designed hoax. The truth is, parking lots around hospitals were mostly closed because visiting non-COVID patients had been discouraged for the past months. What’s more, suspected COVID patients are encouraged to contact physicians first instead of immediately going to the emergency room.

The Danger of Believing Conspiracy Theories

In general, mainstream media coverage of the global pandemic is factual. However, because of the current information landscape, a lot of people naturally have lost trust in the media. If you start looking into how COVID-19 is changing the world, you will quickly discover the shift in people’s information consumption. For instance, a survey conducted by the School of Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa showed that almost half of Canadians believed various conspiracy theories about Coronavirus. Out of the 2,000 respondents in the survey, 46% believed at least one of the myths.

According to Carleton professor Sarah Everts, it is alarming to see this high rate because theories about COVID-19 can put the already overwhelmed healthcare system at even more risk. She said that this may result in people not taking the threat of the virus seriously, ignoring the safety recommendations, including social distancing.

When the virus started spreading around the world, a lot of people denied the truth of how alarmingly dangerous it was. People were more concerned about answering questions like “What is Coronavirus’s business impact?” As such, people tried to appease the fear and pretend that everything was still normal.

“The common flu kills more people than this novel coronavirus. We can still hold mass gatherings, attend public events, and keep businesses open.”

As with any piece of hearsay or gossip—especially one that can bring fatal results—it is crucial to look at the facts and data. As of this writing, COVID-19 is the leading cause of death around the globe, leaving both malaria and suicide behind:

how COVID-19 is changing the world
source: https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/2562261/

You may wonder, “Why did COVID-2019 happen?” However, your biggest concern should be to get information on how you can keep yourself safe from the virus. So, aside from preventing the spread of COVID-19, it is also critical for us to combat misinformation online. John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky developed a handbook specifically for recognizing and debunking conspiracy theories.

So, if you find yourself falling down the rabbit hole of a particularly enticing COVID-19 conspiracy theory, make sure you take every bit of information with a grain of salt. Even better, use a time tracking app like Traqq to ensure that you keep the time you spend reading these bizarre theories at a minimum. As always, it is your responsibility to perform due diligence before you believe anything you read online.

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