Misinformation spikes after Trump reveals he has COVID-19
By Amanda Seitz and Beatrice Dupuy | Associated Press
CHICAGO — News Friday that President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19 sparked an explosion of rumors, misinformation and conspiracy theories that in a matter of hours littered the social media feeds of many Americans.
Tweets shared thousands of times claimed Democrats might have somehow intentionally infected the president with the coronavirus during the debates. Others speculated in Facebook posts that maybe the president was faking his illness. And the news also ignited constant conjecture among QAnon followers, who peddle a baseless belief that Trump is a warrior against a secret network of government officials and celebrities that they falsely claim is running a child trafficking ring.
In the final weeks of the presidential campaign, Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis was swept into an online vortex of coronavirus misinformation and the falsehoods swirling around this polarizing election. Trump himself has driven much of that confusion and distrust on the campaign trail, from his presidential podium and his Twitter account, where he’s made wrong claims about widespread voter fraud or hawked unproven cures for the coronavirus, such as hydroxychloroquine.
“This is both a political crisis weeks before the election and also a health crisis; it’s a perfect storm,” said Alexandra Cirone, an assistant professor at Cornell University who studies the effect of misinformation on government.
Facebook said Friday that it immediately began monitoring misinformation around the president’s diagnosis and had started applying fact checks to some false posts.
Twitter, meanwhile, was monitoring an uptick in “copypasta” campaigns about Trump’s illness. “Copypasta” campaigns are attempts by numerous Twitter accounts to parrot the same phrase over and over to inundate users with messaging, and they are sometimes signals of coordinated activity. The social media company said it was working to