The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania conducted its fourth survey addressing beliefs in COVID-19 related misinformation. The survey included a national representative sample of 1,672 U.S. adults in November 2021. The survey found:
- 31% said the Chinese government created the corona-virus as a biological weapon—up from 23% in March 2020—days before the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic.
- 21% said that Microsoft co founder Bill Gates supported development of a vaccine containing microchips that can track a vaccinated person—8% said it is true, while 13% are not sure.
- A growing minority (15%, up from 11% in September and 9% in April) said the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines contain fetal tissue. 30% said they are not sure whether it is true or false.
- Heavier users of conservative and very conservative media have significantly less confidence in Dr. Anthony Fauci, the CDC, and the FDA.
- 27% continued to believe some health officials at the CDC exaggerated the danger posed by the pandemic to damage the Trump presidency. Another 14% are not sure if this is true while 58% said it is false. This has not changed since April 2021.
- 5% said social distancing orders are secretly meant to allow the installation of 5G wireless technology—15% said they are not sure, and 80% said it is false.
- 6% say the COVID-19 vaccines were designed to control the size of the Black and Hispanic communities, while 13% are not sure, and 81% say this is false.
- 79% said it is probably or definitely true that the vaccines approved for use in the United States are safe. Of this group, 43% said it is definitely true, up from June (38%) and April (34%). Just 10% erroneously said it is false.
- 73% correctly said the COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing COVID-19, unchanged since September.
- 18% of those surveyed erroneously said that ivermectin is an effective treatment for COVID-19 (up from 10% in September), while 38% said that is false (up from 27% in September).
- 10% erroneously said that COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility.
WHERE IS THIS MISINFORMATION ORIGINATING?
Among the most culpable sources, far-right extremists are spreading many falsehoods. The popular instant messaging app, Telegram, has grown steadily since the pandemic began. It lacks the content moderation of the most prominent social media sites. According to the Associated Press, COVID-19 theories originating from the far right are growing. A “think and do” tank devoted to responding to polarization, hate and extremism, monitored a sample of 239 Telegram channels used by far-right and extreme right-wing communities: Key findings include:
- 167 of the channels actively discussed COVID-19 between January 2020 and June 2021.
- Almost 30% of all messages relating to COVID-19 reference vaccines, primarily misinformation, false claims and conspiracies, framing vaccines as unsafe for humans.
- 9 of the 10 most-viewed Telegram messages in the sample referenced COVID-19 vaccines with false claims and conspiracies, framing vaccines as unsafe for humans, and promoting mistrust of pharmaceutical companies that manufacture vaccines.
- The most-shared external domain among white supremacist Telegram channels when discussing COVID-19 was Zerohedge, a site that has frequently published conspiratorial content about the pandemic.
BUT HERE ARE THE MOST EGREGIOUS SOURCES, BECAUSE OF THEIR SEEMING VALIDITY
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
An in-depth investigative report reveals that the anti-vaccine group, Children’s Health Defense, led by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., has thrived during the pandemic:
- Its revenue doubled to $6.8 million in 2020
- Its monthly website visits peaked at 4.7 million visits, up from 150,000 before the pandemic
- This misinformation has been translated into multiple languages
Kennedy’s bestselling book The Real Anthony Fauci (Nov 2021) promotes dubious COVID-19 treatments and accuses the nation’s leading infectious disease doctor of helping orchestrate “a historic coup d’état against Western democracy.” Much of Children Health Defense’s misinformation is directed at mothers and black Americans. What do you think Kennedy’s father and uncle, were they alive today, would say in response to such antics?
And don’t forget Fox “News,” the major cable network that has been purveying such nonsense as the use of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine in treatment, along with sewing doubts on the proven safety and efficacy of the highly useful current vaccines.
Sadly, millions embrace COVID-19 misinformation, which is clearly linked to hesitancy on vaccination and boosters, resulting in major avoidable suffering and deaths: This raises the question: Which is more dangerous, the COVID virus itself, or the misinformation surrounding this virus?