Anti-Vaxer Nuts, Exploiting the CORONAVIRUS CRISIS:

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by paddoboy, Apr 16, 2020.

  1. paddoboy Valued Senior Member


    5G and anti-vax conspiracy theorists are exploiting the coronavirus crisis:

    We still have a great deal to learn about the new coronavirus, but there's one thing all the experts are united on: 5G is not to blame.

    5G, or the fifth-generation mobile network, will power Australia's hyper-connected future, but on the internet of today it's become a conspiratorial catch-all.

    New South Wales Labor politician Penny Sharpe has been sent all kinds of stories about the supposed radiation dangers of 5G. But in recent weeks, the emails became more disturbing; they claimed the network's rollout was connected to the coronavirus.

    In early April, Ms Sharpe tweeted about the trend. "Stop it. It's not sensible. It's not helpful," she wrote.

    Then the pile-on began. For denouncing the theory, which is not supported by scientific evidence, she was deluged with angry tweets and messages from people who didn't even seem to live in Australia.

    "There are connections being made that I think are fanciful," she said.
    ""[They] are being used by a whole range of different people for a range of different reasons that have got nothing to do with keeping people safe and healthy through the crisis."

    Anti-vaccination groups, well established on platforms like Instagram, YouTube and Facebook, have seized on incorrect and often contradictory theories about 5G and vitamin cures to capture attention and advance their own narrative.

    Many of these fringe messages come from the internet's darker corners, but as the world has gone into lockdown, they have found their way into the mainstream and risk endangering public health.

    The anti-5G agenda
    The claim that 5G's radio waves damage the body has been denounced by radiation and medical experts, but it continues to be cultivated in Australia among a significant network of anti-vaccination and anti-5G Facebook pages.

    More recently, the baseless idea that the network's rollout caused coronavirus, or that it "lowers the immune system" so the virus can enter the body, has found celebrity boosters including actor Woody Harrelson, who shared a now-deleted Instagram post with his more than two million followers.

    The uncertainty inherent to a pandemic allows such misinformation to spread, said Colin Klein, who studies conspiracy theories at Australian National University's School of Philosophy.

    A virus is, for most people, an invisible and confusing threat. Mobile phone towers meanwhile are tangible, and government conspiracy is a comforting trope — although one that comes with reported links to disinformation efforts by Russian media.

    "Conspiracy theories offer an emotionally satisfying narrative, even if it's not a true narrative," Dr Klein said.

    The earliest mentions of the baseless idea that 5G contributed to COVID-19 appear to have been shared by a French blog on January 20 and days later in an article published by a Belgian news outlet, which has now been deleted, according to analysis by misinformation researchers at First Draft.

    A similar theory was later posted on high-profile Facebook pages including a group called Stop 5G UK (Facebook has now removed this group for breaking its policy on promoting or publicising crime) and continue to spread.

    In the UK, phone masts have vandalised in recent weeks, which the government has connected to the spread of such misinformation.

    Australian anti-5G Facebook groups have added hundreds of new members in recent weeks. Whether these people are convinced, curious or simply gawkers remains to be seen.

    Dr Joan Donovan, who directs Harvard University's Technology and Social Change Research Project, said the danger of such conspiracy theories is that people who believe them may not take proper steps to protect themselves from COVID-19.

    It can be attractive, she said, to blame an outside force such as super-fast internet technology for the body's innate susceptibility to new viruses — a human vulnerability we often try to fix with vaccines.

    "The 5G argument, if you were to buy it, means eventually that a vaccine wouldn't matter because 5G is the explanation," she said.

    The vitamin C 'cure'
    During a pandemic, even something as innocuous as vitamin C can become a miracle cure and political football.

    The theory that vitamin C prevents COVID-19 began on the online message board 4chan in January, according to the data analysis firm Yonder, which tracks online narratives.

    From there, the firm's research suggests it was embraced by conspiracy theorists on Twitter as well as by "conservative populists", before making another jump in February to anti-vaccination groups on platforms like Facebook.

    "4chan influences conspiracy theorists, and conspiracy theorists in turn influence conservative populists in the US and often conservative populists and provocateurs influence the anti-vax community," said Jonathon Morgan, Yonder's chief executive.

    "There is this chain of influence."

    While the location of the original 4chan posters is unknown, the narrative that high doses of vitamin C could treat COVID-19 began to show up on Australian anti-vaccination Facebook pages, some of which have more than 12,000 followers, around early February.

    The media has also contributed to the hype. An article by the UK tabloid the Daily Express, which queried whether vitamin C could be a "wonder vaccine" in the headline, currently has more than 56,000 Facebook interactions according to data from social analytics company CrowdTangle.

    The Therapeutic Goods Administration says there are currently no published, peer-reviewed studies that support the use of intravenous high-dose vitamin C to manage a COVID-19 infection, although some research is underway.

    Yet the idea that vitamin C may provide a miracle cure for COVID-19 sits in "a goldilocks space of plausibility and novelty", Mr Morgan said.

    "It needs to be novel and extreme enough to be provocative, but not so novel and extreme that it starts to become ridiculous and distasteful."

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  3. paddoboy Valued Senior Member


    This familiarity helps the concept to evolve from a basic pharmacy item into a supposed cure, and the repetition built into social media quickly gives the message a veneer of authority.

    Like 5G, for anti-vaccination groups, Mr Morgan suggested such theories lay the groundwork so that when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, the argument that it's unnecessary would already be established.

    Repetition and racism
    The activities of anti-vaccination and anti-5G groups on social media during the pandemic are concerning, but also a warning. They are far from the only entities seeking to exploit the COVID-19 crisis.

    Dr Donovan first became acquainted with coronavirus watching YouTube and listening to white nationalist podcasts, where hosts called it "the Chinese virus" or "Wu-Flu".

    "We've seen an uptick in anti-Islamic hate speech online, we've seen anti-Asian sentiment on the rise," she said.

    Racist views find a receptive audience in a climate of fear. Rather than focusing on debates about what to call the disease, in Australia, fake posts and videos have incorrectly claimed Chinese people are exporting protective equipment or spitting on fruit and vegetables.

    It is difficult to confront the beliefs of people committed to conspiratorial thinking, but as we continue to be physically isolated yet highly online, misinformation will continue to spread to people who may not have otherwise been exposed to it.

    If we think of information flows into and around Australia like we do the pandemic, Dr Klein, said we should also consider what the equivalent of an inoculation would be.

    WhatsApp recently limited how often a message could be forwarded, for example. Dr Klein suggested this could be considered an online form of social distancing.

    Facebook is now removing false claims that link coronavirus to telecommunication networks.

    As for Ms Sharpe, she continues to ignore the 5G emails and tweets. But she said it's a "sad reality" that trust in government, institutions and science has been diminished.

    "People are very willing to look somewhere else when they're not getting the answers they like."
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  5. paddoboy Valued Senior Member


    As the Coronavirus Spreads, Conspiracy Theories Are Going Viral Too:
    Dubious and unfounded claims on the internet intended for domestic consumption are reaching far beyond their target audiences, allowing governments to spread disinformation cheaply and easily.

    Long dismissed as absurd, conspiracy theorists on social media are increasingly posing a potential global threat—and becoming an asset for states looking to disrupt the geopolitical narrative and spread disinformation.

    In the context of the global COVID-19 crisis, conspiracy theories have exploded across digital news sites and social media. While propaganda campaigns amid pandemics are nothing new, what is new in the current crisis is the global information environment in which it is playing out. The all-too-real impacts and stresses of the pandemic feed into the preexisting dynamics of the online information ecosystem, amplifying rumors, misinformation, conspiracies, and outright lies. For governments seeking to build trust and communicate clearly, it’s a nightmare. For those looking to sow chaos and doubt, it’s an opportunity.

    There is a concept in social media studies known as “context collapse.” Usually attributed to the researcher Danah Boyd, it refers to the way in which social media platforms take messages that the sender intended to be seen by one audience in a given context and serve them up to others who were not the intended targets.

    [Mapping the Coronavirus Outbreak: Get daily updates on the pandemic and learn how it’s affecting countries around the world.]

    Chances are you’ve experienced it yourself. Many of us have felt the awkwardness of posting a joke on Facebook with the intention of sharing it with your friends and instead your grandma replies or making some less-than-professional comments on a personal Twitter account only to have your boss bring it up on Monday. The nature of social media platforms has a way of smashing social contexts into one another so that messages tailored for one audience end up hitting others as well and being interpreted in unanticipated ways.

    What the COVID-19 crisis is demonstrating is that this dynamic does not just apply to individual social media users managing personal and professional relationships; it also applies to the cacophony of conspiracy theories raging across the screens and through the minds of social media users around the world.

    In the past, pandemic-related conspiracy theories and rumors in London, Tehran, Kinshasa, Shenzhen, and Moscow would have been different. In an era of global social media platforms, however, the dynamics of context collapse mean that conspiracy theories promoted by users in one place are colliding with users in others. The fragmented nature of social media chops conspiracies into little pieces—a factoid here, a false claim there—creating a kind of information petri dish for conspiracy cross-propagation, allowing half-true facts, decontextualized narratives, and false beliefs to flow and fold into one another and spread rapidly across the world.

    One of the key ways in which this happens is through the use of hashtags. Common conspiracy hashtags, for example #coronahoax or #covid19hoax, are used by multiple groups of conspiracists in various countries and serve as vectors of transmission between them as, for example, 5G and anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists scroll through the hashtag and encounter far-right or QAnon content and vice versa. Conspiracy theorists also actively use hashtags to attempt to spread their message around the world, for example by using multiple region-specific hashtags.

    The nature of social media platforms has a way of smashing social contexts into one another so that messages tailored for one audience end up hitting others as well and being interpreted in unanticipated ways.
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  7. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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  8. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member


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