Fake News for the Week Ending May 22, 2020

Another week, another treasure trove of fake news news. Like these:

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  • It seems like half the time I spool up a video on YouTube I’m faced with a pre-roll ad for The Epoch Times. These ads are super-wacky right-wing conspiracy theory stuff, all about “spygate” and the plot against President Trump and all sorts of items that fall clearly in the category of fake news. I have no idea why YouTube thinks I want to see these ads, because I don’t, but they keep popping up with alarming regularity. (I wonder how many of this blog’s readers are seeing them, too?)

    Some background on The Epoch Times. It’s a print-and-digital newspaper run by the Chinese Falun Gong religious movement. Falun Gong is decidedly anti-Communist and often persecuted by the Chinese government. Its involvement in U.S. politics skews way to the conservative side of the dial, and it is defiantly pro-Trump in its views. (The group was apparently the second-largest funder of pro-Trump advertising on Facebook, after the Trump campaign itself.)

    The Epoch Times reflects those extreme-right views. It promotes all manner of conspiracy theories, from QAnon to anti-vax propaganda. In terms of bias, it makes Fox News look like MSNBC.

    The paper also happens to be the source of much COVID-19 disinformation, including its claims that the coronavirus (which it calls the “CCP virus,” after the Chinese Communist Party) was behind its inception and spread. In my opinion, The Epoch Times goes beyond annoying into the dangerous category; anyone believing anything printed by this rag is being misled to an extreme degree.

    If you want to learn more about The Epoch Times, you can check out its website here. NBC News has a story about Facebook banning ads from The Epoch Times due to their pro-Trump bias. Snopes reports on The Epoch Times building a network of fake Facebook accounts to accompany all those pro-Trump ads. And Media Bias/Fact Check details the site’s right-wing/pro-Trump bias and history of failing multiple fact checks.

    In short, if you see an ad for The Epoch Times, don’t click it. Nothing good or reliable (or remotely factual) lies at the other end.

  • It appears that President Trump’s announcement of his “Operation Warp Speed” project to hasten a coronavirus vaccine has spurred the anti-vaccination movement to new heights. An increasing number of anti-vax proponents (and new adherents) are claiming that they won’t receive an anti-coronavirus vaccine if and when it is developed. Some are claiming the whole coronavirus vaccination thing is part of a far-fetch conspiracy somehow involving ex-Microsoft founder Bill Gates. (I still don’t get that one.) In any case, expect the crazies to come out of the woodwork the closer we get to a real vaccine, and stand in the way of its use by the general public. Read the story in The Washington Post.
  • By the way, in case you were wondering, Dr. Anthony Fauci didn’t invent nor is he profiting in any way from remdesivir, the potential treatment for COVID-19. That’s fake news circulating around the social media. FactCheck.org does the usual debunking.
  • Speaking of fake coronavirus cures, there remains no evidence that the hydroxychloroquine anti-malaria drug has any effect whatsoever on stopping the COVID-19 virus, despite President Trump continuing to promote it and, in fact, admitting he personally is taking it. In fact, there continue to surface additional studies that show the drug has negative effects on coronavirus patients, including death. (That’s a pretty negative effect, in my personal opinion.) The Guardian has the latest.
  • Also circulating on Facebook is the claim that receiving a flu shot causes false positive results for COVID-19. It doesn’t. (As usual, don’t believe everything you see on Facebook.) FactCheck.org, once again, has the facts.

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