| Jemma Schroder | firstname.lastname@example.org | March 5, 2020 |
With confirmed cases upwards of one hundred-thousand, the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. What also doesn’t seem to be slowing down is what the United Nations has deemed an “infodemic:” the increasing amount of conspiracy theories and misinformation spread through social media. From suspicions that the virus originated as a Canadian bioweapon that was stolen by Chinese agents to speculations that the Chinese government has misreported the true number of confirmed cases, there is no shortage of conspiracy theories, especially amongst d.tech students.
A leading theory is that the Coronavirus is a new-and-improved version of China’s One-Child Policy, a method of population control employed by the Chinese government from 1979 until 2015. Freshman Enzo Baca-Jackson describes the disease as a “deadly form of population control,” stating the simple process of “release the disease, kill a bunch of people, and then no more population rise.” Senior Lili Blum has heard of similar theories, albeit with an environmental spin. “The coronavirus happened on purpose to control the population and save the environment,” she explains.
Some students, however, see COVID-19 as a possible bioweapon. According to senior Owen Walsh, “the cases that are showing up in the Bay Area specifically tell me that China’s trying to weaken the tech-base of America.” This theory is a spin on the traditional bioweapon theory, which states that the outbreak is due to the mishandling of biomaterials in a Wuhan lab. Due to the ability for social media users to post generally any content with little to no censorship, this theory has spread rapidly and is favored by both d.tech students and the online community alike: the Twitter hashtag #bioweapon has an estimated reach of over two million users.
In his typical style, senior Benji Chang rejected these theories, instead opting for a more ominous approach. Chang expressed his suspicions that “Ken Montgomery created the Coronavirus.” Due to d.tech’s mission of empowering students to improve the world, Chang believes that “[Montgomery] made the world a worse place so that we would have a starting point to make the world a better place.”
Despite their popularity amongst social media sites and d.tech students, most of these theories hold very little truth. Science shows that the Coronavirus is not anything close to a bioweapon concocted with malicious Chinese intent—it really is just a rapidly spreading respiratory infection. To combat these theories, the World Health Organization has launched a social media campaign to link searches about the virus to infographics displaying the facts and suggestions on how users can protect themselves.
Regardless, as confirmed cases and conspiracy theories alike soar, the distinction between fact, falsehood, and joke becomes increasingly important.