Fake News for the Week Ending May 8, 2020

There was a lot happening in the world of fake news this week, starting with:

  • A 26-minute excerpt from the upcoming video documentary “Plandemic: The Hidden Agenda Behind Covid-19” has been floating around the Internet. This is not a good thing, as the documentary itself is rife with conspiracy theories and dangerous misinformation. As such, it has been decried by experts and taken down by Facebook, YouTube, and other sites. The documentary highlights discredited former scientist Judy Mikovits and her baseless claims that the COVID-19 coronavirus was intentionally released as part of a vast conspiracy by Dr. Anthony Fauci and the entire pharmaceutical industry to ruin her career; it was produced by Mikki Willis, whose previous videos have trumpeted a variety of conspiracy theories. I’ve watched the excerpt and found it embarrassingly biased, inadequately sourced, and, in my opinion, full of bunk and hokum. It is the worst kind of propaganda, especially when the world is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and needs facts, not crazy conspiracies, to do so. The Daily Beast lays out the basics of the situation and Poynter does a good job fact-checking the documentary here, If you feel you need to watch it yourself (and it is most definitely a waste of your time), it’s archived here.
  • Speaking of COVID-19 conspiracies, Cornell Alliance for Science lists the ten most popular ones as:
    • Blaming 5G
    • Bill Gates as scapegoat
    • The virus escaped from a Chinese lab
    • COVID was created as a biological weapon
    • The US military imported COVID into China (this one is popular among the Chinese)
    • GMOs are somehow to blame (this was a new one for me)
    • COVID-19 doesn’t actually exist (spoiler alert: it does)
    • The pandemic is being manipulated by the ‘deep state’
    • COVID is a plot by Big Pharma
    • COVID death rates are inflated
  • Absorbing fake news has repercussions. Case in point, a new study finds that viewers listening to the misinformation spewing from Fox News bloviating head Sean Hannity, who has downplayed the pandemic, experienced more infections and deaths than those listening to slightly more rational host Tucker Carlton. NRP has the story.
Don’t listen to this man or you’ll get COVID-19 and die!
  • Apparently trolls and bots are flooding social media with disinformation encouraging states to end their coronavirus quarantines. This makes it look like the opposition to state lock-down orders is substantially bigger than it actually is. Business Insider has the inside information.
  • All the concern about deepfake video and audio possibly affecting the upcoming election may be overblown. Two experts detail why they think that deepfake’s moment has passed: “We’ve already passed the stage at which they would have been most effective,” said Keir Giles, a Russia specialist with the Conflict Studies Research Centre in the United Kingdom. “They’re the dog that never barked.” Read all about it from NPR.
  • In contrast, other experts think that deepfakes represent a serious threat to the 2020 elections, but not in the way you might think. It’s what experts call the Liar’s Dividend: The mere existence of deepfakes gives more credibility to denials from politicians caught in real compromising situations. In essence, because of deepfakes and other fake news, people don’t believe anything they see. CNET has the story.
  • Finally, does this photo (circulating on social media, of course) show former VP and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden with Tara Reade, the woman who has accused him of sexual misconduct? Of course it isn’t; it’s a 1993 photo of Biden with Zoe Baird, then-nominee for U.S. Attorney General, as Snopes points out. As usual, don’t believe everything you see online!
Nope, that’s not Tara Reade — it’s Zoe Baird with Joe Biden.

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