Where that coronavirus text from ‘a friend in the military’ really comes from

Disinformation peddlers are spreading fake news through private messages, evading scrutiny.

Where that coronavirus text from ‘a friend in the military’ really comes from

In mid-March, a family member forwarded a suspicious message to my family’s group chat. She prefaced the note by saying someone else had “just texted us this. Not sure if it’s accurate but sharing just in case.”

The message warned of imminent national lockdown. The note said someone’s “friend from the military” had inside knowledge that “a two week quarantine will be initiated by Trump pursuant to the Stafford act. So make sure you have enough everything for 14 days.”

Awooga! My journalistic skepticism-sensors blared. President Trump declared a national emergency over the then-already rampaging coronavirus on March 13th, a few days prior to my receipt of the message. He did so under the auspices of the legislation in question, which allows the federal government to deploy aid and resources more quickly in the event of disaster. The Stafford act says nothing about the legality of the executive branch implementing country-wide quarantines. (Look to the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, or this section of the U.S. Code, which details the Surgeon General’s powers, for the basis of that possible, though contestable, authority.)

I fired back with a link to a tweet from the White House’s National Security Council. “Text message rumors of a national quarantine are FAKE. There is no national lockdown,” it said, urging people to follow the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s Twitter account for more accurate information.

I was one of many, many Americans to receive that erroneous text message, so clearly designed to incite panic. Other iterations proliferated, many attributing advance knowledge of a lockdown to sources in national security-focused federal agencies. (Did you come upon a note like this too?)

Now we know at least partly why such messages ran so rampant. While the exact origins of the bogus claims remain unclear, American officials across six agencies believe Chinese agents amplified the messages, borrowing tactics from Russia’s divisive online disinformation campaigns by using fake social media accounts and distribution to fringe political groups, the New York Times reports. The U.S. intelligence community is allegedly investigating whether spies in Beijing’s diplomatic offices helped covertly propel the propaganda through other means too. (A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the allegations were “complete nonsense and not worth refuting.”)

State-sponsored disinformation peddlers are adapting their tactics to stay under the radar for longer. They’re turning to more private, encrypted messaging channels, where they’re less likely to be caught, versus public websites. Like the novel coronavirus itself, which infects far and wide thanks in part to unwittingly contagious, asymptomatic patients, disinformation is spreading stealthily.

As propagandists’ strategies evolve, disinformation will become harder to contain. Earlier this month, Facebook started limiting the number of chats to which frequently forwarded messages can be sent—a welcome measure to fight the proliferation of fake news, but by no means a cure-all. It’s also going to take a concerted effort on individuals’ part to counter threats such as these.

My best advice: Do your part and check the veracity of a claim before spreading it. Be on guard for falsities, and do for the mind what health officials recommend for the body.

Self-quarantine, disinfect, repeat.


In case you didn’t tune into yesterday’s enlightening discussion between this newsletter’s usual author, Adam Lashinsky, and Fortune‘s Erika Fry on the admirable responses of Seattle and San Francisco to the pandemic, here’s a recording. Expect to see more virtual events hosted by our team.

Robert Hackett

Twitter: @rhhackett

Email: robert.hackett@fortune.com

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How to watch the NFL Draft live online for free—and without cable

There might not be pro sports right now, but we can look to the future.

How to watch the NFL Draft live online for free—and without cable

The NBA hasn’t played a game since March 11. Major League Baseball has yet to have its opening day. And the NHL has been in cold storage for over a month. So, for sports fans, the start of the NFL Draft on Thursday could be as big a draw as the Super Bowl.

This year’s NFL Draft was originally supposed to be a glitzy production emanating from the Las Vegas strip, with players being ferried through the Bellagio fountain on boat. Those plans, of course, are out the window now and the draft will be more of a virtual affair, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announcing the first-round picks from his basement.

Last year, nearly 50 million people watched the NFL Draft, and that number could be considerably higher this year as people remain sports starved. Aware of that audience, the league is also hosting a Draft-A-Thon to raise money for charities.

Obviously, you’re not going to be out and about when the draft airs this year, but there are plenty of ways to watch from your couch.

When does the 2020 NFL Draft take place?

This year’s NFL Draft will begin Thursday, April 23 and run through Saturday, April 25. Round one picks will be announced Thursday. Rounds two and three are announced Friday. And Saturday will air the final four rounds.

What time does the 2020 NFL Draft start?

That depends on which day you’re watching.

  • Thursday’s coverage will begin at 8:00 p.m. ET.
  • Friday’s coverage will start at 7:00 p.m. ET.
  • Saturday’s coverage will begin at 12:00 p.m. ET.

Which network or networks are airing the 2020 NFL Draft?

You’ve got lots of options. ABC, ESPN, and NFL Network will each air all of the 2020 NFL Draft.

How can I watch the NFL Draft for free?

The best way to watch any sort of network programming for free on a big screen is with a good HD antenna. And with ABC airing the draft this year, that means you’ll be able to watch even if you don’t have a cable subscription. To ensure you’re getting the most reliable signal, you’ll want to test the antenna in multiple locations in your home.

Can I watch the 2020 NFL Draft online?

There are loads of online options to watch the 2020 draft—some completely free and others with free trial periods. If you’re not near a TV, you can log on to the ABC app, the WatchESPN app, the NFL app, or the NFL Network app.

Prefer another option? Here are a few alternatives:


This free service lets you watch local broadcast channels with no monthly fees or contracts. The hiccup is: It only services part of the country.

Sling TV

Dish Network’s Sling is one of the OG cord cutter options. The lower tiered “Orange” plan will run you $30 per month. That will get you ESPN, but you might want to add a few more channels with Sling’s “Blue” plan, which bumps the cost to $45 per month. You’ll have a seven-day free trial first.

Sling is also offering free access to the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, with no credit card required. Sign up for the Sling Happy Hour and you can use the service for free from 5 p.m. through midnight.


Formerly known as DirecTV Now, AT&T’s streaming service will run you $65 per month and up after a seven-day free trial.

Hulu with Live TV

You can try the service free for a week. Once that’s up, you’ll pay $45 per month.

YouTube TV

After a seven-day trial, you can expect monthly charges of $50.

Fubo TV

This sports-focused cord cutting service comes with a seven-day free trial, followed by monthly charges of $55.

Does the NFL offer any service for me to watch the 2020 NFL Draft?

Kind of.


The will let you stream games that are being broadcast locally in your market on Sundays. If you want to watch an out of market game, you’ve got two choices.

There are a couple hitches with this service. You can’t use it to watch live games, but you can watch anything once its main broadcast ends. There’s a seven-day free trial, after which you’re looking at a $100 charge per season.

DirecTV customers have access to it, but if you’re not a subscriber and live in an area where it’s not available, you can watch any NFL game live, online, or on TV for $73.49 per month or $293.36 for the entire season.

Can I watch the 2020 NFL Draft on Amazon?

Sadly, no. While NFL games sometimes air on Amazon, that agreement does not extend to the draft.

What’s the draft order for selections in 2020?

The order will vary by round, but here’s how things are shaping up for Round One:
1. Cincinnati
2. Washington
3. Detroit
4. NY Giants
5. Miami
6. LA Chargers
7. Carolina
8. Arizona
9. Jacksonville
10. Cleveland
11. NY Jets
12. Las Vegas
13. San Francisco f/IND
14. Tampa Bay
15. Denver
16. Atlanta
17. Dallas
18. Miami f/PIT
19. Las Vegas f/CHI
20. Jacksonville f/LAR
21. Philadelphia
22. Minnesota f/BUF
23. New England
24. New Orleans
25. Minnesota
26. Miami f/HOU
27. Seattle
28. Baltimore
29. Tennessee
30. Green Bay
31. San Francisco
32. Kansas City

Which players are first-round favorites in the 2020 NFL Draft?

Part of the thrill of the NFL Draft is how quickly things can change. Las Vegas odds makers, though, say these are the players most likely to go quickly, in this order:

  • Joe Burrow, LSU – The Bengals are expected to make the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback their first pick.
  • Chase Young, Ohio State – The Redskins are favored to grab the defensive end who boasted 16.5 sacks and 6 forced fumbles last season.
  • Jeffrey Okudah, Ohio State – The cornerback is a 4:5 odds favorite to join the Lions.
  • Jedrick Wills, Alabama – The offensive tackle is expected to be an early pick, putting the Giants in a prime spot to grab him.
  • Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama – The Crimson Tide quarterback and Oregon’s Justin Herbert are both high on odds makers lists, but Tagovailoa is slightly favored by bookmakers.

More must-read entertainment coverage from Fortune:

—Hollywood artists are creating PPE for the medical community
—The best streaming services for live TV in 2020, according to critics
Succession actors get a pay raise: Report
—China’s movie theaters are closed—again. For studios, the anxiety is unbearable
—Why and the 1970s fight over the ERA are more relevant than ever
—Listen to , a Fortune podcast examining the evolving role of CEO
—WATCH: One on one with Grace Potter

to stay up-to-date on the latest news and analysis.

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