The accompanying text was not, “The US has found the man responsible for manufacturing and selling the coronavirus to China,” it read in Spanish.
In fact, the authorities have not found such a connection between Lieber and the virus.
To the shock of disinformation experts, the pandemic creates the conditions for conspiracy theorists and foreign agents, seasoned political strategists, and amateur crusaders to confuse the virus, downplay its severity, and shared response on discord about the response to the outbreak.
In the 2016 presidential election, supporters of Donald Trump, Republican agents and Russian actors harnessed the power of internet content to spread infectious messages and influence political stories, not all rooted in the truth.
Only this time, the online manipulation campaigns aren’t just about damaging civil discourse or a campaign, researchers said. They can be deadly.
“We’re not talking about #pizzagate,” said John Voiklis with Knology, a social science think tank, pointing to a debunked conspiracy theory that went viral in the 2016 election and falsely linked prominent Democrats to human trafficking at a pizzeria in Washington, DC. “We’re talking about a real illness that can make you and your family members sick.”
On the Internet, the lies, misleading statements, and conspiracy theories about coronavirus – its origins and cures, symptoms, and infection rate – are diverse, as are their creators.
Some of the content falls squarely into the “ misinformation ” category: inaccuracies that result from mistakes, such as lists of unproven treatments and videos from pseudoscientists and psychologists speculating about prevention. Other material, such as the WhatsApp text chain, provides clear examples of “misinformation”, “or misinformation deliberately created to mislead. False content is most likely to share, researchers say, when it sounds true or twists some truth. to a credible conspiracy.
Then there is a grayer area of dispersed propaganda that is more difficult to trace and proves that it is coordinated. Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center investigators, Joan Donovan and Brian Friedberg, have dubbed some of these posts “ viral sloganeering ” because they are designed to take media attention to spread conversation topics.
In recent weeks, when Trump supporters and right-wing targets protested home orders, such content has bounced off the far-right internet, Freidberg and other researchers said.
“Quarantine is when you limit the movement of sick people. Tyranny is when you limit the movement of healthy people, ‘reads a popular meme, echoing a quote from Meshawn Maddock, co-founder of Women for Trump and the Michigan Conservative Coalition, before thousands of people protested in vehicles in Lansing. A few days later, former Florida representative Allen West tweeted a photo with the same lines printed on a paper pasted on what appears to be a fence.
“This quote frequently appears during this crisis,” he said. “If you know the original source, I’d like to admit it. It is awesome! ‘
The words have since spread across social media groups and platforms and spread on Twitter on Monday, as Virginia governor Ralph Northam postponed the reopening of non-essential companies by a week. The text may vary, often beating symbols of danger, pictures of hospital wards, or representations of the American Revolution. Researchers used to say that the protesters’ idea – to oppose governmental measures to limit the coronavirus outbreak – is the same as to question the advice of experts in public health.
Protests, for the most part, were minor, and polls have shown that most Americans do not support them.
Even in the most extreme right-hand corners of the web, there is debate as to whether the reopening US campaigns are the basis or fueled behind the scenes by well-funded organizers. Some Facebook ads promoting the gatherings have been linked to a loose network of conservative and libertarian groups with roots in the Tea Party movement, including FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots and Convention of States. Facebook and other social media platforms have been removing messages spreading disinformation or disinformation about the pandemic faster than in the past.
But organizers and protesters – including Trump supporters, pro-weapon rights activists, anti-vaccine advocates and advocates of other right-wing causes