After Facebook, YouTube has also taken down a channel belonging to former footballer and current conspiracy theorist David Icke. The campaign group, Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) had published an open letter requesting tech companies to delete Icke’s account and remove his posts, which has made several false claims about COVID-19 and its origins. Icke’s deleted FB page had 7,70,000 followers and as per the report by CCDH, Icke’s posts have been viewed more than 30 million times.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a fertile ground for a huge number of conspiracy theories, primarily focusing on its origins and alleged perpetrators. The repercussions have also been severe, leading to mistrust, xenophobia and adding on to the existing confusion and paranoia.
We take a look at the conspiracy theories that have dogged the pandemic.
We have broadened our guidance on unverified claims that incite people to engage in harmful activity, could lead to the destruction or damage of critical 5G infrastructure, or could lead to widespread panic, social unrest, or large-scale disorder.— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) April 22, 2020
5G coronavirus: Fears regarding 5G technology and it’s supposed harmful effects have been going around for some time now. However, it was a Belgian doctor who floated the theory that 5G was responsible for the pandemic. On January 22, the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste published an interview featuring a local doctor with the headline, “5G is life-threatening, and no one knows it.”
The article claimed that Wuhan, which was seeing infections slowly rising then, had installed a number of 5G cell towers. China had also turned its 5G towers on in November. The doctor claimed that though he had not done a fact check, the two could be linked. The article, which was later deleted, went viral and was picked up by other people, including American singer Keri Hilson and actor Woody Harrelson.
In the Netherlands and in the United Kingdom, cell towers were also vandalised, while engineers were verbally abused. Scientists have debunked the rumours that 5G has anything to do with the spread of the virus.
A Chinese bioweapon: While COVID-19 virus is believed to have originated from a wet market in Wuhan, conspiracy theories claim that the virus is a leaked bio-weapon created by China. A lawsuit has even been filed in the United States claiming damages of USD 20 trillion, accusing China and a high-security biosafety lab on the outskirts of Wuhan of releasing the virus. The institute, which is home to the China Centre for Virus Culture Collection, preserves more than 1,500 strains of viruses, as per its website. The Fox News had also claimed, in an exclusive report, that the virus, which is naturally occurring strain among bats, may have accidentally been leaked by an intern working at the lab.
The Jewish connection: As per anti-Semitic Groups, the coronavirus was created in a lab in China, but not by the Chinese. Rather, as per conspiracy theories floating around, also cited by David Icke, the labs are controlled by a Jewish group. Iran’s Press TV, the country’s English language press, has also allegedly been pushing reports that claim that ‘Zionists’ have developed a deadlier strain of the virus against Iran.
A Dean Koontz novel written in 1981 predicted the outbreak of the coronavirus! pic.twitter.com/bjjqq6TzOl— Nick Hinton (@NickHintonn) February 16, 2020
Prediction in a novel: Books and movies on pandemics have always caught the fancy of people. According to conspiracy theorists, American novelist Dean Koontz predicted the virus in a 1981 novel titled ‘The Eyes of Darkness’. The theory, which went viral after someone posted excerpts of the book online, highlighted a passage which spoke about a man-made virus produced in a lab in Wuhan called the Wuhan-400. In the book, anyone infected with the virus would die within 24 hours.
Simpsons predicted it: Social media is abuzz with another theory claiming that the popular American animated sitcom, The Simpsons, predicted the pandemic in a show 27 years ago. The 1993 episode of Simpsons shows an illness that causes panic among residents of Springfield. Season 4, Episode 21 of the show, titled ‘Marge in Chains’ talks about a news report on a fictional illness called “Osaka Flu” and of a Japanese worker coughing into a box, which is then shipped to the United States, spreading the virus. One of the images shared on social media depicts Springfeild’s news anchor Kent Brockman, presenting the news, with the words ‘Corona Virus’ written in the background. However, fact-checking websites have revealed that the social media images were altered and the words, Corona Virus were added later on.
Mole children: Another bizarre theory that is seeing a revival in New York is that the pandemic has been created as a cover to hide a military operation involved in rescuing thousands of deformed ‘mole children’ who have been hidden in underground tunnels beneath medical tents set up in Central Park, by sex traffickers. This has been floated by members of the Q-Anon, a far-right conspiracy theory that believes that a state cabal of global elite is responsible for most of the problems in the world. The followers of the theory also believe that these elite groups are out to defeat US President Donald Trump.