How COVID-19 misinformation is still going viral

Despite pledges from the big social media companies to remove dangerous coronavirus misinformation, from false causes to false cures, Silicon Valley and fact-checkers around the world are struggling to stem the flow of false claims about the pandemic.

How COVID-19 misinformation is still going viral

Fact-checkers around the world are struggling to stem the flow of false claims about the coronavirus pandemic on social media.

Just this week, a viral video, titled "Plandemic," clocked up millions of views across Facebook and YouTube before it was pulled down.

"I've not seen a video of this type gain this kind of viral traction so quickly," Alan Duke, the editor in chief of Lead Stories, a fact-checking group that works with Facebook told CNN Thursday.

As of Thursday afternoon, a book featuring the subject of "Plandemic" had shot to number one on the Amazon bestsellers list, where it remained on Saturday.

Asked about it, an Amazon spokesperson told CNN, "This book does not violate our content guidelines".

Experts in tracking disinformation told CNN that different groups that push conspiracy theories, like QAnon and anti-vaccine activists, have found common ground in peddling false and misleading claims about COVID-19.

The many unknowns about COVID-19, because of its novel nature and the speed and scale at which it has spread, along with an anxious public understandably looking for answers, have created the perfect conditions for conspiracy theories to thrive.

Since it emerged Russia ran a disinformation campaign targeting the 2016 US presidential election, "we've been obsessed about political disinformation," noted Claire Wardle, the director of First Draft, a nonprofit that tracks online misinformation.

But she warned that now medical misinformation could cost lives — for instance discouraging people from getting a coronavirus vaccine, if one becomes available.

Silicon Valley has developed COVID-19 specific policies since at least January.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told CNN last month, "if someone's spreading something that puts people at imminent risk of physical harm, then we take that down".

But the video that went viral Wednesday was viewed at least 3 million times on YouTube and, according to data from social media analytics platform BuzzSumo, Facebook posts linking to the video had been liked, shared, or commented on well in excess of 10 million times as of Thursday afternoon.

On Thursday Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said the company was removing the video based on one of the dangerous claims that was made in it.

"Suggesting that wearing a mask can make you sick could lead to imminent harm, so we're removing the video," Stone said Thursday afternoon.

Earlier, a YouTube spokesperson told CNN that the video was being removed for making claims about a cure for COVID-19 that had not been backed by health organisations.

Despite both companies' pledges to remove the video, copies of it were still circulating on both platforms on Thursday evening, with new versions of the video being uploaded to YouTube throughout the day.

Twitter did not implement a blanket ban on the video like the ones put in place by Facebook and YouTube.

A Twitter spokesperson said the company was not doing so because the platform's technology does not allow for users to post clips as long as the full video is.

But, the spokesperson said, if people do upload parts of the video directly to Twitter, the company the company would evaluate those clips.

A working mum has learned the hard way about what happens when her daughter borrows her iPhone

Links to the video on other platforms were not being removed from Twitter though some links were being marked as "unsafe," meaning users will see a warning before proceeding to the video, the spokesperson added.

Wardle said people should be cautious when reading or sharing content on social media and pointed out that misinformation is often financially or ideologically motivated.

Further complicating the work of fact-checkers and social media companies is governments pointing fingers and playing the blame game — sometimes spreading objective falsehoods.

CNN reported last week on the case of Maatje Benassi, a US Army reservist and mother of two, who is being accused by conspiracy theorists of starting the pandemic.

The claims have been amplified by media controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, itself trying to deflect blame for its role in the crisis.

In March, the State Department summoned China's ambassador in Washington hours after a prominent Chinese official suggested that the US military may have been responsible for bringing the coronavirus to Wuhan.

On the other side, President Donald Trump contradicted his own intelligence community by claiming he had seen evidence the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab. Intelligence shared among US allies indicated the virus more likely came from a market in Wuhan, and not a lab.

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Passengers in crash that killed Kobe Bryant were negligent, at fault: Pilot's lawyers

The brother of the pilot in the helicopter crash that killed nine people including NBA legend Kobe Bryant says the passengers had fault.

Passengers in crash that killed Kobe Bryant were negligent, at fault: Pilot's lawyers

The brother of the pilot in the helicopter crash that killed all nine people aboard, including NBA legend Kobe Bryant, says the passengers had fault and were negligent, according to court papers filed recently.

Attorneys for Berge Zobayan, listed as successor in interest for pilot Ara Zobayan, allege "any injuries or damages to plaintiffs and/or their decedent was directly caused in full or in part by the negligence or fault of plaintiffs and/or their decedent," according to the seven-page document.

The document, an answer to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Bryant's widow, Vanessa Bryant, adds the passengers knew the risks involved.

"And that this negligence was a substantial factor in causing their purported damages, for which this answering defendant bears no responsibility," the response says.

Attorneys for Zobayan shift "negligence, fault or wrongful conduct of third parties, whom this answering defendant neither controlled nor had the right to control."

Among other requests, Berge Zobayan's lawyers ask for judgment in his favour and for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

Vanessa Bryant's attorney filed her complaint on February 24, the same day a memorial service was held for Kobe Bryant and the couple's daughter Gianna who was also onboard the helicopter.

The complaint held Island Express, the helicopter company, and Ara Zobayan responsible for the crash citing numerous counts of negligence.

Island Express had no comment Monday and a representative for the company previously told CNN it does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Arthur Willner, an attorney for Berge Zobayan, told CNN the man is the pilot's brother and the lawyer had no further comment.

CNN's request for comment to representatives for Vanessa Bryan were not immediately answered.

The response, filed Friday, also said Berge Zobayan denies every allegation in Vanessa Bryant's lawsuit. No trial date has been scheduled.

Photo showing three victims from the Altobelli family who were killed in the helicopter crash involving Kobe Bryant. Alyssa is on the far right, and Keri is pictured holding John's arm, on the far left.

Other lawsuits from families who lost someone in the crash don't list Zobayan as a defendant.

In April, the families of crash victims Christina Mauser, as well as John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their daughter, Alyssa, 14, filed wrongful death claims against the company that owned and operated the aircraft.

The lawyer representing both the Mauser and Altobelli families filed separate complaints for damages claiming Island Express Helicopters was negligent and careless.

Photo of a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter at Van Nuys Airport in  California. NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and others died after their helicopter, the same type shown in this photo, crashed in Southern California.

The helicopter crashed into hilly terrain in foggy conditions January 26. It was transporting passengers to the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California, for a youth basketball game when it went down in Calabasas.

The victims also included Payton Chester, 13, and Sarah Chester, 45.

Source : 9 News More   

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