By now you’ve probably heard about this conspiracy theory documentary floating around called “Plandemic: The Hidden Agenda Behind Covid-19.” I saw friends debunking it before I ever got a chance to watch the video, and now it’s been removed from YouTube and Facebook. This, however, isn’t the first time we’ve encountered the spread of misinformation. It happens all the time. Social media platforms are receiving criticism for their handling of the situation saying that removing such is a violation of our first amendment rights, but if the spread of lies, conspiracies, and half-truths is putting people at risk, then what else is there to do than remove it? If we can’t count on people to do the research for themselves and think critically, how else can we protect them from the spread of potentially harmful misinformation?
Fact checking sites like Politifact and Medium have already done a lot to debunk this video, but the damage is done. It’s already been viewed by over tens of millions and shared across social media platforms. In the video, Dr. Judy Mikovits, discusses various conspiracy theories linked to the coronavirus and makes wild claims about its origin. A basic search of the claims will reveal a mix of lies embedded in half truths with a scientific spin from an actual doctor. Misinformation like this is incredibly harmful especially if its encouraging sinophobia or negligence in preventing the virus from spreading such as discouragement of wearing masks, etc. Whenever I encounter politically-fueled rhetoric such as this I like to go to the source. In this case, the source is a production company called Elevate run by Mikki Willis. This isn’t the first conspiracy video produced by this company. There are many others. We might not always be able to shut down companies that crank out lies and half-truths, but we can stop the spread.
Some might consider the spread of lies via social media a nuisance, but it can have long-lasting, deadly consequences. Consider, for instance, the anti-vaxxers (also alluded to in the Plandemic video. Ignorance is not bliss, especially when it impacts society. Are we going to start living in an age where information is highly censored or controlled by the government? Some would say we already live in that age, but remember there are still people who believe the Earth is flat, so how much good has trying to control falsehoods online really done? Psychology Today gives some insight into the phenomenon of misinformation. It spreads like a virus and does damage much in the same way. In the article, advice is given about what to do when one encounters falsehoods online and how to stop it from spreading.
First, we must understand the issue. Oftentimes fake news and misleading memes are spread unintentionally. Other times it’s a choice being made for political or personal reasons. Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure, the more an inaccurate piece of information is shared, the more people will believe in it. And if you know anything about cognitive dissonance, then you’ll know once a person is inclined to believe in something, it’s almost impossible to change their minds despite all the facts, research, and experts contradicting what they’ve chosen to believe.