CORONAVIRUS

Inaccurate coronavirus video spreads faster than the disease

A slickly produced 26-minute video that propagates coronavirus conspiracy theories,
A slickly produced 26-minute video that propagates coronavirus conspiracy theories, "Plandemic," poses a problem for online platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. (Dreamstime/TNS)

If you’re on Facebook, you probably already saw this: a video that spread rapidly and that’s almost as dangerous as the virus it covers.

It is with sad irony that the “Plandemic” video went viral. Accurate and reliable information is more important than ever as the world continues to battle a pandemic.

The video purported to uncover myriad conspiracy theories surrounding the new coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. But the 26-minute, documentary-style video contained precious little information that was accurate or reliable.

At a time like this, that is dangerous.

Still, that did not stop the video from making the rounds: It racked up more than 1.8 million views and was shared nearly 150,000 times, according to Digital Trends.

In the video, an interviewer discusses the coronavirus with Dr. Judy Mikovits, whose previous work has been discredited and, in one case, sparked a lawsuit.

"COVID-19 is a new disease, not one that is derived from SARS; there is no evidence that federal Medicaid payments incentivize physicians to label a death as COVID-related; and no studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for COVID-19."

 

Mikovits makes many claims that were widely and in some cases easily debunked by fact-checkers. To highlight a few, no there is no evidence the virus was manipulated; COVID-19 is a new disease, not one that is derived from SARS; there is no evidence that federal Medicaid payments incentivize physicians to label a death as COVID-related; and no studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for COVID-19.

In short, the video is overflowing with claims that are at best misleading and at worst lies.

That such a video exists is frightening enough. That it gained so much traction in such a short time is scarier. Multiple social media platforms, including YouTube, worked to remove the video for violating company policies.

Conspiracy theories can be fun to entertain. But they can also be dangerous. Just ask the family of Seth Rich.

When the conspiracy theories contain misinformation about a virus that has killed more than 76,000 Americans, that’s not just irresponsible. It is dangerous.

This message should be evergreen, but it’s even more important now: We need to be getting our information from reliable sources. This is literal life-or-death stuff. We should be listening to the experts, especially in the public health and medical fields.

And by experts, I mean the ones working in an official capacity and whose goals are to better understand this virus and how to handle it with the public’s health foremost of mind. Not the outliers, like the wannabe YouTube stars with a checkered past.

So here is a humble plea to everyone out there to be careful about what information you are consuming and sharing on social media. As Gov. Kim Reynolds keeps saying, we’re all on this together. Let’s make sure we’re fighting this battle with the appropriate knowledge.

SENATE DEBATES

Two debates are being scheduled for the Democratic primary in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race.

Several Iowa television stations are organizing a debate that would be broadcast Saturday, according to one of the candidates’ campaigns. The debate would be broadcast on KCCI-TV in Des Moines, KWWL-TV in Waterloo and Cedar Rapids, KTIV-TV in Sioux City, KETV-TV in Council Bluffs and WGEM-TV in southeast Iowa.

Iowa PBS also will broadcast a debate at 8 p.m. May 18.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Theresa Greenfield, Michael Franken, Eddie Mauro and Kimberly Graham are seeking the Democratic nomination and the right to challenge first-term incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst.

Iowa’s primary election is June 2.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.