It seems conspiracy theories will always be with us. The latest theories link the biggest current fears, 5G and coronavirus.
The Beginning of this Link was Obscure
In January, a Belgian newspaper published an interview with Kris Van Kerckhoven, a general practitioner from a town near Antwerp.
The headline said that 5G was life-threatening. Another thing Van Kerckhoven said was a scientifically baseless claim that 5G might be linked to coronavirus. The newspaper removed this claim from their website, but to no avail.
This obscure interview became known to the rest of the world as it made its way through the internet.
A Tenuous Link was Made
At the time of the interview, 440 people were infected with coronavirus and 9 had died, mostly from the Chinese city of Wuhan. And since 2019, there had been a number of 5G cell towers erected around Wuhan.
The journalist asked if those things could be related, and Van Kerckhoven said that he had not done a fact check. But that fact was forgotten as the story took hold.
The Anti-5G Protesters Saw Their Chance
Dutch anti-5G protesters saw this as their chance to provide “proof”. They linked the article to their Facebook accounts. From there, English speakers put this proof of dark business on their pages, too.
Engagement Algorithms Helped the Spread of Misinformation
YouTube and Facebook offered up videos and content posts about “the truth” and the usual, faithful echo chambers racked up views that only made it into a few thousand.
Engagement algorithms recognized that the content had potential to go viral, and helped it along. The algorithms could tell it was popular, but could not tell that it was misinformation.
Misinformation went beyond its usual echo chamber, even getting celebrities to join in.
The Consequences of 5G Exposure
A petition that got more than 110, 000 signatures claimed that the symptoms of exposure to 5G were similar to the symptoms of coronavirus.
5G was said to cause coronavirus symptoms, or to weaken the immune system to make you more susceptible. Some went as far as to say that the coronavirus shutdown was being used to install 5G towers. And 5G towers are being vandalized.
Old Conspiracies are Given New Life
Old debunked conspiracy standbys like “deep state” plots to foist vaccines on people, illuminati murder plots and non-ionizing radiation are being revived and added to the mix.
Usually going no farther than established conspiracy communities, the link with coronavirus gave it traction.
Uncertainty and Fear Leads to Conspiracy Theories
With the uncertainty and fear around coronavirus, conspiracies give an explanation and provides a scapegoat. This theory has gone mainstream, or at least outside the confines of the usual fringes because of social networks.
Social media seems to be hesitant to stop the misinformation that is rampant on their platforms. Misinformation and harmful content can be stopped as shown by content related to terrorism and child sexual exploitation being removed successfully.
There just needs to be a will to identify and remove this disinformation.