Omicron: Misinformation, some of it disinformation, is outpacing factual information; news media can help mitigate that

Photo illustration by The Daily Beast

“In July, a fake slide deck with the logos of the World Health Organization and the World Economic Forum purporting to show a schedule for when coronavirus variants would be ‘released’ rocketed around social media, racking up thousands of likes on Twitter and Instagram,” Gerrit De Vynck reports for The Washington Post. Anti-vaccine influencers cited the image as proof that powerful interests were orchestrating the pandemic.

The image has become popular again recently with the advent of the omicron variant. “While public health officials around the world cautioned people not to jump to conclusions before the variant could be studied more closely, the fake image recirculated on social media, posted by people adamant that omicron was just the next step of a global conspiracy, the Post reports. “Other false claims about the new variant have leaped across the Internet in the two weeks since it was first identified.”

We don’t know how big a factor the Omicron variant will be, but as research on it continues, misinformation about it – even disinformation, which is purposeful misinformation – is outpacing what we really know, according to the Post. It’s the latest example of the saddest part of the pandemic, after the deaths and disability caused by Covid-19: millions of people making bad decisions based on bad information, and keeping the pandemic going. News media help mitigate that with factual information.

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