Experts in tracking disinformation told CNN that different groups that push conspiracy theories, like QAnon and anti-vaccine activists, have found common ground in peddling false and misleading claims about Covid-19.
The many unknowns about COVID-19, because of its novel nature and the speed and scale at which it has spread, along with an anxious public understandably looking for answers, have created the perfect conditions for conspiracy theories to thrive.
But the video that went viral Wednesday was viewed at least 3 million times on YouTube and, according to data from social media analytics platform BuzzSumo, Facebook posts linking to the video had been liked, shared, or commented on well in excess of 10 million times as of Thursday afternoon.
On Thursday Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said the company was removing the video based on one of the dangerous claims that was made in it.
“Suggesting that wearing a mask can make you sick could lead to imminent harm, so we’re removing the video,” Stone said Thursday afternoon.
Earlier, a YouTube spokesperson told CNN that the video was being removed for making claims about a cure for COVID-19 that had not been backed by health organizations.
Despite both companies’ pledges to remove the video, copies of it were still circulating on both platforms on Thursday evening, with new versions of the video being uploaded to YouTube throughout the day.
Wardle said people should be cautious when reading or sharing content on social media and pointed out that misinformation is often financially or ideologically motivated.
Further complicating the work of fact-checkers and social media companies is governments pointing fingers and playing the blame game — sometimes spreading objective falsehoods.
In March, the State Department summoned China’s ambassador in Washington hours after a prominent Chinese official suggested that the US military may have been responsible for bringing the coronavirus to Wuhan.