And the worst part is, Americans believe them.
How harmful the unchecked misinformation on the social media platforms can be? The U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Thursday classified misinformation as a “public health hazard” in a historic statement. Since the onset of the pandemic, the COVID-19 misinformation has been running wild and experts now believe that it has become a greater danger than the virus outbreak itself.
- 42 million Americans believe the bizarre anti-vax theories circulating on social media.
- Politicization of vaccination by GOP is the biggest hurdle to cross for Biden administration.
- Surgeon General of U.S. declares misinformation as a “public health hazard” for the first time ever.
- Biden administrations seeks to fight the misinformation in an administrative manner.
A few days ago, President Biden called out the social media platforms like Facebook for “killing people” by letting the COVID-9 and vaccine misinformation run unchecked among masses. It turns out that the accusation holds an unfortunate truth.
Bizarre theories surrounding COVID-19 vaccination are manipulating masses into not taking the mandatory dose. While the White House is struggling to meet the Fourth of July vaccination target, anti-vaccine campaigns fueled by conservatives and GOP leaders are holding the progress back.
THE MOST TROUBLING PART IS- IT IS WORKING.
People in the U.S. are actually believing ridiculous COVID-19 theories that are circulating on platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc. One fifth of Americans showed their faith in the theory that the vaccines have been implanted with microchips by the government to control population.
In a survey by YouGov for Economist, respondents were asked if “the U.S. government is using the COVID-19 vaccine to microchip the population“. Surprisingly, 5% of the total respondents believe it is true while 15% said it can be “probably true“.
The survey concludes that the notorious theory that started circulating in 2020 is actually trusted by almost 42 million adults. The claims that Microsoft Founder Bill Gates is the mastermind behind implanting chips in vaccines for population control and that, pandemic is just a cover up.
WHO STARTED THIS ANTI-VACCINE CONSPIRACY THEORY?
The first known super spreader of the fake story was Sherri Tenpenny, who testified before Ohio State Legislature, saying that vaccines make people magnetic. An edited video started circulating later during 2020 in December, showing Bill Gates and Jack Ma behind the microchip implantation in the vaccine. The video was later fact-checked by Reuters and turned out to be false.
The video has since then been watched over 1.5 million times, receiving more than 40,000 shares.
Another anti-vax theory claims that COVID-19 leads to autism and is believed by 17% of adult American population.
In a lot of cases, these theories are circulated by GOP lawmakers who first politicized the virus outbreak, and now, the vaccination drives. However, much of the blame is to be held by the social media giants who hardly did anything to stop providing a platform to such troublemakers.
Neither were the lawmakers stopped from circulating damaging content during a virus outbreak, neither were the videos and posts related to anti-vax theories, taken down.
A MASSIVE CHALLENGE FOR THE VACCINATION GOALS
As soon as matters of utmost significance like COVID-19 vaccination are politicized, the challenge becomes much more difficult to be conquered. If GOP lawmakers promote their faith in the anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, the entire conservative population follows the lead.
The YouGov poll also revealed that as many as 32% Republicans strongly believe and endorse the microchip theory.
Here, the biggest loophole that the Biden administration left behind is not laying enough emphasis on convincing the people to take vaccine shot. The White House spent trillion dollars on pulling economy out of pandemic crisis, manufacturing vaccine, setting up goals, and implementing the vaccination drives. However, very little, almost nothing, has been done to curb the misinformation that is circulating on social media like wildfire.
The key lies in appointing misinformation officers as soon as possible if the Biden-Harris administration is planning to take the war against anti-vax theories seriously.