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Virus Misinformation Spikes as Delta Cases Surge

The New York Times: “…Coronavirus misinformation has spiked online in recent weeks, misinformation experts say, as people who peddle in falsehoods have seized on the surge of cases from the Delta variant to spread new and recycled unsubstantiated narratives. Mentions of some phrases prone to vaccine misinformation in July jumped as much as five times the June rate, according to Zignal Labs, which tracks mentions on social media, on cable television and in print and online outlets. Some of the most prevalent falsehoods are that vaccines don’t work (up 437 percent), that they contain microchips (up 156 percent), that people should rely on their “natural immunity” instead of getting vaccinated (up 111 percent) and that the vaccines cause miscarriages (up 75 percent). Such claims had tailed off in the spring as the number of Covid cases plummeted. Compared with the beginning of the year and with 2020, there was an observable dip in the volume of misinformation in May and June. (Zignal’s research isn’t an accounting of every single piece of misinformation out there, but the spiking of certain topics can be a rough gauge of which themes are most frequently used as vehicles for misinformation.) The latest burst threatens to stymie efforts to increase vaccination rates and beat back the surge in cases.

The vast majority of people testing positive for the virus in recent weeks, and nearly all of those hospitalized from the coronavirus, were unvaccinated. Public health experts, as well as doctors and nurses treating the patients, say misinformation is leading to some of the vaccine hesitancy. Disinformation researchers say the spike shows that efforts by social media platforms to crack down on misinformation about the virus have not succeeded…”

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