InfoWars host Alex Jones, for example, has described the virus as a “bioweapon” from China designed to destabilize the Trump administration — all while touting his “Superblue Fluoride-Free Toothpaste,” which he says can help prevent you from getting sick. Others have speculated that the virus is linked to the new 5G internet.
The coronavirus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. As of March 13, there were nearly 140,000 confirmed cases across the world, and over 5,000 deaths. The entire nation of Italy is on lockdown, the U.S. National Guard is assisting with a containment zone in a New York suburb, the stock market is plunging, and the news is filled with images of deserted airports and medical teams in hazmat suits like something from a bad sci-fi movie.
Yet there’s still much that’s unknown about the virus, making it easy fodder for those who thrive on a deep distrust of authority and who peddle fear of impending societal collapse, even when a pandemic isn’t unfolding. Speculation, disinformation, and conspiracy are proliferating across the internet, and in some cases on TV.
“We’re seeing a mix of misinformation, false information that’s going around, like fake cures on fringe websites, such as drinking bleach will cure you, bathing in salt. And then you see conspiracies like the virus was a bioweapon, or it started from people eating bats in China,” said Gianluca Stringhini, assistant professor and co-director of the Security Lab at Boston University’s College of Engineering and an expert in disinformation.
Coronavirus is caused by 5G internet
A California-based YouTuber with 166,000 followers published a video last month claiming that the coronavirus was, in fact, radiation poisoning from 5G wireless technology. She argues that the high frequencies from the new technology impacts oxygen absorption, causing respiratory symptoms identical to those associated with COVID-19. As a way to circumvent YouTube’s crackdown on fake news and disinformation, the YouTuber uses codenames for keywords: She refers to China as “CH”, coronavirus as “CV”, and spells out 5G like “f-i-v-e-g.”
The claim linking coronavirus to 5G technology has zero basis in fact or reality, and is one of the most bizarre conspiracy theories about the virus, but still managed to proliferate on social media. Some people have shared side-by-side world maps of places with 5G technology, noting that the geographical distribution is similar to countries impacted by coronavirus. “It takes 5G to activate what’s in you from vaccines and chem trails,” remarked one person on a Facebook page for the QAnon community.
“All DNA has Corona in it,” someone replied. “5G mega frequencies can be used to alter your DNA, developing the virus. Bio-warfare.”
Coronavirus is a bioweapon
Scientists still don’t know exactly where coronavirus came from, but the broad consensus is that it was not man-made. They suspect it began in a wet market, where live fish, meat and wild animals are sold, in Wuhan.
However, in late January an unpublished manuscript by scientists in India started circulating online i, arguing that the protein sequences of the coronavirus suggested that it was engineered in a lab. The claims were widely debunked by scientists who study viruses, and the paper was withdrawn a couple days later by its authors. But it was too late — conspiracy theorists around the globe pounced on the paper and used it as evidence to support their baseless claims that the virus was a bioweapon.
This is one of the most popular conspiracies being peddled, and it even has a few different iterations. The origin of the supposed bioweapon varies depending on who is promoting the conspiracy.
Infowars’ Jones and his cohorts have claimed that virus was engineered by China, which is in collusion with the “deep state” to wreak havoc on the U.S. economy and ruin Trump’s chances of being reelected in November.
The claim that the virus was a bioweapon from China made its way to Republican Sen. Tom Cotton from Arkansas, who repeated it during a segment on Fox News last month.
Then on Fox and Friends on Thursday, evangelical leader and Trump ally Jerry Falwell Jr. claimed that the virus was a bioweapon from North Korea.