Coronavirus, BLM protest conspiracy theories collide on Facebook and Twitter
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronovirus epidemic, visit the WHO website.
Explosion amid protests about racial injustice, Conspiracy theorists quickly took to Facebook and Twitter to link the two incidents.
On Facebook, social media users spread a conspiracy theory that protests over the police assassination of George Floyd were “to start a race war to impose further lockdown restrictions” as people were starting to see through coronaviruses “deception.” Others said that the “elite” created both epidemics and protests to control civilians.
Some Twitter users also turned to conspiracy theories. They packed images of protesters tightly together. The epidemic was a government deception as evidence that there was no immediate spike in cases. Others misinformed that black people were immune to the virus or tweeted that social discrimination had ended.
An epidemic, social protests and a controversial election have created a particularly challenging environment for Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Content moderators and fact-checkers are struggling to prevent the spread of explicit misinformation while giving users space to express their opinions.
The problem has knotted for online platforms as false claims about taxing a health crisis and the murder of Floyd, making content moderation decisions – best of all in both cases. Social networks have stated that they will remove coronavirus misinformation that can prevent harmful behaviors such as drinking bleach or using unsafe treatments to cure the disease.
“It’s really a perfect storm of events that brought us here,” said Eugene Keeley, director of FactCheck.org, a fact-checking website. “I can’t remember a time where we had a lot of things going on at the same time that invited these conspiratorial patterns.”
From May 28 to June 26, 116,101 are cited for referring both coronoviruses and protests as a hoax, according to media intelligence company Jignal Labs, which analyzes data from social media and news outlets. Most of these mentions came from Twitter, but conspiracy theories also popped up on Reddit. CNET also found dozens of posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter including false claims about both coronoviruses and Black Lives Matter chests.
A Facebook spokesperson said the social network’s efforts to fight such misinformation include automated detection systems, fact-checking and reducing content delivery. He also said that Facebook is removing content that violates its rules. The company said it pulled hundreds of thousands of posts containing harmful coronovirus misinformation, but that data did not include posts about the Floyd protest.
Twitter Coronovirus adds a label to the tweet containing misinformation, including. Clicking on the label gives users access to official sources. A Twitter spokesperson said, “The company is heavily reliant on automated technology, which mistakenly applied the label to factually accurate content.” “Our team is currently reviewing other types of content and will add additional tweets soon.”
On April 1, Twitter said it had removed more than 1,100 misleading and potentially harmful tweets as the company halted new guidance on March 18 that forbade content that could increase the spread of coronaviruses. Twitter has not released a new number since the protests began.
What is to increase conspiracy theories
Misleading – and sometimes contradictory – statements from authorities have fueled online nonsense about the conspiracies. Some health experts and politicians have encouraged citizens to protest racial injustice, stating that bigotry is also a health threat. Also, he has asked protesters to wear masks and practice social distance. Conservatives have faced criticism for objecting to lockout measures because the economic toll on mental health can be reduced.
Similarly, mixed messages about the effectiveness of masks to prevent the spread of coronaviruses have helped spread the rumor. At the onset of the health crisis, as frontline health workers faced a shortage of protective gear, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization said people do not need to wear masks until they are ill. Do not take care of any sick person. Now both organizations encourage the general public to do face coverings when they go out.
The term “hoax” has also been introduced by President Donald Trump, although there is confusion about whether he calls Coronavirus a hoax. Fact-checking site Snopes said Trump used the term to criticize Democrats for their administration’s response to the coronaires.
Online coronavirus conspiracy theories have the potential to affect health in the real world. A study at the University of Oxford found that people in England who follow coronovirus conspiracy theories are less likely to follow government guidance such as staying home, wearing a mask, or keeping six feet apart.
Joseph Usinski, associate political science professor at the University of Miami, who studies conspiracy theories, said some people have a worldview, in which events and circumstances are the product of conspiracies. It is difficult for those people to change their mind.
“In my experience, it seems that if something is coming from their worldview and it’s close to their heart, they won’t give up easily,” Uskinski said.
The overlap of social unrest and a global health crisis have created a fertile basis for conspiracy theories. Social media posts linking the two incidents warn of a dark conspiracy to control society, a common trope in conspiracy theories. In late May, thousands of Facebook users shared a 1,000-word post claiming that Floyd’s murder was “staged” to incite “racial tension”. The Post asked if it was a “mere coincidence” that the killing occurred during the outbreak. Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers’ Federation of Minneapolis, told FactCheck.org that nothing was staged.
Fact-checkers have also dismissed false claims that Floyd’s death was recorded before the epidemic. Another false Facebook post claimed that former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that there was a conspiratorial “pattern” in the epidemic and protests, as well as other events. The tweet came from a fake Sanders account on Twitter.
Facebook’s approach is opposite to Twitter’s
Facebook and Twitter have rules against posting coronavirus viruses that can cause harm, such as encouraging people to ignore social distances. The two companies are generally reluctant to delete posts that contain misinformation, but merging and opposing conspiracy theories about coronaviruses gives them more avenues to take on problematic content due to the potential for harm.
Talking about coronovirus conspiracy theories, Facebook tends to be stricter than Twitter. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that decisions about coronovirus misinformation are as close to “black and white” as they are to political misinformation.
To get a rough idea of where Facebook draws the line, CNET showed several posts to the social network describing both the coronovirus epidemic and protests as a hoax. The posts appeared on Facebook and on the Facebook-owned Instagram photo-sharing service. On Instagram, a user posted a photo of a protector wearing a mask and signing up saying “I can’t breathe.” Underneath that image was a photo of Star Trek captain Jean-Luc Picard performing a facepalm, above the caption “Face of the Mask”. The post included the hashtag #coronavirushoax, enough to make it hank.
Facebook also removed two other posts claiming that Coronavirus and Floyd were killed by the Hawks. The social network said it took the posts down because they could cause physical harm by discouraging people from treating them or taking precautions against the virus.
On Twitter, simply tweeting that the coronavirus virus is a hoax is not enough for the company to pull the content down. Twitter said it considered the material to be “strong commentary and conspiratorial content” that did not complete its strip for removal. Twitter’s guidance states that claims such as “coronavirus is a hoax” should include a “call to action”, such as encouraging people to stop washing hands.
Twitter has dropped tweets that say coronavirus is a government hoax or the question of whether coronavirus affects black people. CNET posted a tweet on Twitter in early June stating that Floyd’s death exposed “nonsense and hoaxes of the coronavirus” because there was no immediate spike in the COVID-19 infection. Twitter left the post.
However, the company deleted a tweet about the protest, which included claims that black people were immune to the virus. It also pulled a tweet, which encouraged people to take off their masks as protests showed “social disturbances are over.”
Why do people make conspiracy theories
Conspiracy theories that are spread online can have consequences in the real world. In 2016, a North Carolina man fired from a rifle in Washington, DC, investigating a malicious conspiracy theory known as a Pizzagate called Comet Ping Pong. Conspiracy theorists speculated that Hillary Clinton, who was the presidential candidate that year, was linked to the restaurant-run child-sex-trafficking ring.
The QAnon conspiracy theory, including an alleged “deep-rooted” conspiracy against Trump, has stained the real world. QAnon supporters have shown up at presidential rallies and an armed man staged a blockade in the Hoover Dam in an attempt to obtain documents. Trump has also retweeted a QAnon hashtag for his 82.4 million followers.
Katherine Olmsted, a history professor at the University of California, Davis, who teaches classes on conspiracy theories, said humans often look for patterns and want to see connections. Amidst an epidemic and opposition to racial justice, people may find it easier to form conspiracy theories to face reality.
“One way that social psychologists say is that people look through conspiracy theories in search of a connection and it might be more comfortable to find a pattern to pave the world,” Olmsted said.