Homegrown Disinformation, Just Like Our Adversaries Used to Make

Threats, Fact Checks, and Reads #6.29.21

Covid

Youngest adults are least likely to be vaccinated, and their interest in shots is declining, CDC finds
The nation’s youngest adults remain the least likely to be vaccinated against the coronavirus — and their weekly rates of vaccination are declining, according to federal research released Monday.

Everything you want to know about COVID-19 booster shots
If scientists discover that immunity to the coronavirus starts to wane months or years after vaccination, a booster shot could be deployed.

Highly Transmissible Delta Variant Spreading in U.S. & EU

‘Next Pandemic’ Early-Warning System Said to Need Real-Time Data
Public health analysts are recommending real-time data on emerging diseases and robust systems for sharing that information to allow the U.S. to respond more quickly in the event of another disease outbreak. 

Protecting The Immuno-Compromised Against COVID Could Be Key To Ending The Pandemic[Listen]

Experts: Lack of access, not vaccine hesitancy, is the main barrier to better COVID-19 vaccination rates [Video]
A racial gap in COVID-19 vaccinations has yet to close in Maryland, prompting an urgent call from some public health experts. 

Families Disapprove of COVID-19 Restrictions at Retirement Homes
Pandemic restrictions are easing almost everywhere — except inside many of America’s nursing homes. Rules designed to protect the nation’s most at-risk people from COVID-19 are still being enforced. 

Vaccinations could impact how the nation defines COVID-19 surges
While the country is no longer expected to reach the goal of getting 70% of adults COVID-vaccinated by the Fourth of July, those that have been are making a real difference.


Threats

YouTube Reverses Course, Reinstates Watchdog Site Monitoring Conspiracists

The U.S. to introduce more targeted sanctions against Putin

On June 20, Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s National Security Adviser, revealed a plan on Sunday to introduce further U.S. sanctions against Russia for the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. 

While the U.S. introduced sanctions in April against Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the suspected group behind the poisoning, the package excluded targeted sanctions specifically aimed towards Putin and his oligarchs. The new package currently under development aims to remedy this with stringent targeted sanctions. 

Although the move comes just days after President Biden and President Putin’s first summit, the White House denies any significance in this timing; As press secretary, Jen Psaki reported, “the law requires we keep looking at sanctions targets connected to chemical weapons use.” 

Biden lays out a plan to crack down on guns used to commit violent crimes [Video]
Biden's recent executive actions to crack down on guns and how it will impact and address gun violence in the U.S.

Former President Trump called for his supporters to “Take America back.”
That phrase resonates with a specific crowd. While it is not clear yet if there is a specific event or date, extremists online have responded with zeal to calls for violence. 

Extremists also responded to Michael Flynn saying what happened in Myanmar could and should happen in the US. He later contradicted his earlier statement denying he said what can be seen on video. Extremists did not appear to respond to his retraction.

Facebook is enabling Trump’s PAC to fundraise on the platform despite his two-year suspension for inciting violence

Since June 16, Trump’s Save America Joint Fundraising Committee has run 258 ads, paying Facebook more than $10,000 and potentially reaching millions of users on the platform

U.S. Arrests 500th Suspect Over Capitol Riots. The US Justice Department announced that Shane Jason Woods was arrested for participating in the January 6 Capitol Riot, marking 500 arrests in relation to the incident. He is the first defendant to be charged with assaulting journalists.


Disinformation 

Narratives

The Alzheimer's narrative seems to partially be its own theory but also bolsters the villainization of Dr Anthony Fauci. While claims of deaths from the vaccines were dispelled much more easily, conspiracy beliefs and rumors that purport serious side effects that would take years to appear would take at least that long to disprove.

It’s an unfortunate reality because one need not supply evidence to make such a claim. The bar for science remains high while the bar for casting doubt does not exist.

The field is asymmetrical, so strategic consideration should be given to mis/mal/disinformation that has the potential to pose a longer term issue like claims that vaccines cause dementia, cancer, or infertility.

Anonymous claims and personal stories, whether vaccines are the cause of the disease or not, drive anti-vaccine sentiments. They connect with and validate our deepest fears.

Data lacks the compelling quality found in narratives, and with a guaranteed firehose of compelling stories in the future because of vaccination on a never before seen scale, disinformation and misinformation researchers must look to the future, too.

The rumors of today do require our attention, but disinformation seeds being planted now will mature and produce potent conspiracy beliefs and false claims. With billions ultimately receiving this vaccine when all is said and done, there will be people who develop dementia who would have anyhow. People who hear vaccine misinformation may see proof of claims in this. Any common disease might then be fodder for new misinformation.

Although it will be possible to show that vaccines did not cause the dementia—of course assuming the vaccines do not cause dementia because if they did the evidence would show that—science must face the reality that the evidence to show this essentially already exists.

It exists and it was ineffective at preventing these ideas from spreading and stoking hesitancy. Whatever is lacking right now, it’s not the evidence.

Note: This section of the newsletter is available as a single article for ease of sharing and documentation.

Link to Article


Fox News Echoed Putin. Then Russian Media Used Fox News Content to Mock US.

The Kremlin tone surrounding the summit was echoed by Fox News. Fox News was then amplified by the Russian state media, which cited Fox News viewers, readers, and media personalities.

Highlights:

  • Fox echoed Russian narratives about the Biden-Putin summit during the summit. Then Russian-state media amplified the Fox content, using it to denigrate the US across its vast media ecosystem in and outside of Russia.

  • Increasingly Fox News content and comments are appearing in Russian-state TV. The content is almost always used to mock or demean the US while painting Putin in a favorable light.

  • Putin echoed revisionist claims of Republican members of Congress regarding the events of Jan 6th.1 That is, Putin repeated the Republican’s revisionism on the global stage.

  • Significant inauthentic activity with regard to the death of Ashli Babbitt occurred immediately following the Republican Senate blocking the investigation. Russian media has taken part in that,2 as well as amplifying critical race theory content.3

Read More

Why Tucker Carlson's conspiracy theory about an FBI plot is so effective

It’s a clear-cut example of how disinformation works. Dr. Jennifer Mercieca, a professor of rhetoric and public affairs at Texas A&M University, did a blow-by-blow analysis of how Tucker Carlson’s segment was designed to capitalize on viewers’ fears and pull them into his conspiracy theory.

Dr. Mercieca sat down with Coda Story to talk about why disinformation like this is so effective.

Russia Pushed Vaccine Conspiracies. Now It’s Backfiring

For months, the Russian government and state-controlled media laughed at lockdown restrictions in the west, promising that nothing of the sort would happen in Russia. Now, as Europe and the United States are opening up, Russia is closing down. On Thursday, the Buryatia region introduced a full lockdown, and more are expected. Having used its mighty propaganda machine to undermine western vaccines, the nation’s government is now scrambling to convince its people to get their shots.

Despite the fact that the Russian government was among the first in the world to start vaccinating its population with the homegrown sputnik v, to date, only 11% of the population has been fully vaccinated (compare that to the average of 34% in Europe). Just over 14% have received one dose. 

Delta variant warnings met with misinformation
As countries sound the alarm over Delta, some commentators have pushed longstanding anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine narratives. On Bitchute, a video posted by the “Fearless Nation” account, which has over 10,000 subscribers, featured a clip of anti-vaccine activist Del Bigtree advancing the conspiracy theory that the variant is a “false flag.” The video has at least 2,300 views.

A post on the QAnon message board Great Awakening misleadingly suggested that because around half of the adults who tested positive for the Delta variant in Israel were fully vaccinated, the vaccines are “worthless.” The claim ignores the context that this figure is in line with known efficacy statistics and that few people who were vaccinated developed a severe illness.

The World Health Organization recommends the continued wearing of masks and other precautions in light of the Delta variant’s spread because the “[v]accine alone won’t stop community transmission.” In response to the WHO’s guidance, Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren said, “Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice?! Not gonna happen!!!,” in a tweet shared at least 1,100 times. — Chris Looft

Article Used To Suggest AstraZeneca Vaccine Is Deadlier Than Covid-19

A USA Today article reporting that more people have died this year from AstraZeneca-related blood clots than from covid-19 in Australia is being championed by vaccine skeptics in the US as proof that the covid-19 vaccines are more dangerous than the virus. Some social media users have accused health officials of corruption for continuing to recommend that people receive their second vaccine dose if they haven’t already. While it is true that in Australia two people have died from vaccine-related blood clots and only one person has died from covid-19 in 2021, the data in this article has been taken out of context. 

A total of 64 vaccine-related blood clots have been reported out of the more than 4 million vaccine doses delivered in Australia. For comparison, Australia has had 30,408 confirmed covid-19 cases and 910 deaths to date. The country’s low number of deaths in 2021 is due in large part to the safety and effectiveness of covid-19 vaccines. In the u.s. and Australia, data has shown that the benefits of the covid-19 vaccines far outweigh the risks, as cases and deaths continue to decrease as more people get vaccinated. Although transmission rates are decreasing in both countries, people who are unvaccinated are still at risk from any new outbreak.

Recommendation:  Passive Response

Due to the prominence of this publication and the lowering death counts in countries with higher vaccination rates, clarifying the role of vaccines as they relate to shifting morbidity and mortality data is recommended. The comparison of risk from vaccination to risk from COVID-19 to the general public is a false equivalency, but understandably confusing for non-expert audiences. As more people get vaccinated, the public’s perception of risk of both COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines is expected to shift. 

Debunked 2014 CDC Whistleblower Story Resurfaces To Cast Doubt On CDC

A previously debunked video from 2014 resurfaced this week, featuring an alleged whistleblower who claimed the CDC destroyed data proving that the MMR vaccine causes autism in African American boys. The claims are based on a now-retracted study that reanalyzed an earlier CDC study and claimed to find an increased risk of autism in African American boys who received the MMR vaccine before age 3. 

In fact, the data from the CDC study did not show a significant increase, and the retracted study’s methodology was called into question. Any causal link between vaccines and autism has been disproven repeatedly, but agents of misinformation are using the story as further evidence that the public cannot trust the CDC, its recommendations, or the COVID-19 vaccines. 

Covid-19 Vaccines Don’t Affect Ovaries Or Fertility In General; The Vaccines Are Highly Effective At Preventing Illness And Death

Claims about infertility began long before the vaccine rolled out and they predate this pandemic by decades. The claims first appeared in 1994 when Catholic Bishops accused the UN of attempting to sterilize people using vaccines. 

Catholic Bishops did so again in 2014. Again there was no evidence and the claims were false. Since then, it has reappeared with nearly every new vaccine, but especially the Covid Vaccine and the Gardasil HPV vaccine

Fox contributor: “We deserve” to lose wars with our current generals

Tucker Carlson says labeling white supremacists a threat is a “racial attack” on all white people

Carlson: “Why does the Biden administration persist in telling that lie? Well, it’s a racial attack, obviously.” No.

No, it’s not. This movement’s demographic profile is different compared to past right-wing extremists, and the ways they differ make the kind that showed up on Jan 6 extremely dangerous.

Media Matters has identified 64 Facebook groups dedicated to opposing “critical race theory” and 187 Facebook parent groups shifting to focus on it.

  • See more on the Critical Race Theory backstory and the inauthentic grassroots campaign that made sure you were talking about it.


FACT CHECKS

Website makes false claims about vaccines and miscarriages (UK)
An article on a website called Daily Expose has claimed that between 9 December 2020 and 2 June 2021 there was a 3016% increase in the number of women who had miscarried “as a result of” having the Covid-19 vaccine. 

The claim is based on data from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) Yellow Card scheme, which collects reports of adverse events following vaccination, but does not prove that vaccination was the cause of any of them.

Daily Expose says that in the first summary of Yellow Card data (covering 9 December 2020 to 24 January 2021), there were six reported miscarriages (recorded as spontaneous abortions) which climbed to over 170 for Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines as of 9 June. (It has since increased above 200 as of 16 June). Daily Expose claims this is evidence that Covid-19 vaccines have caused miscarriages. 

It isn’t surprising that the number of miscarriages after vaccination has increased, given the women vaccinated at the beginning of the rollout were less likely to have been of childbearing age. Women aged over 45 were first invited to be vaccinated in mid-April, and over-30s were invited in late May.

Doctors Are NOT Giving Men Estrogen Patches To Treat COVID-19 Because Women Fight The Virus Better

Instagram post gets it wrong about Covid-19 vaccines and animal testing
An Instagram post has made misleading claims about Covid-19 survival rates and vaccine safety testing. 

It states: “99.998% chance of survival But takes part in human vaccine trial where they skipped animal testing.” Both of the claims are untrue.

False Claims About Ivermectin As A Proven Covid-19 Treatment
Prominent influencers are falsely pushing ivermectin as a proven covid-19 treatment. Some scientists have described it as the “new hydroxychloroquine,” the anti-malaria drug that continues to be falsely promoted as a Covid-19 cure despite multiple studies that show no clinical benefit.

Disinfo: Russian 'Warning' Shots at British Warship
Moscow's defense ministry said a patrol ship fired warning shots and a jet dropped bombs in the path of HMS Defender as it sailed some 12 miles (19km) off Crimea's coast.

The UK government rejected Russia's account of the incident and denied that any warning shots had been fired.

A BBC correspondent on the warship said it was harassed by Russia's military.

Aircraft could be heard overhead as BBC defense correspondent Jonathan Beale filed a report from the deck of HMS Defender in the Black Sea as it sailed to Georgia. He described hostile warnings over the radio as the warship's crew prepared for a possible confrontation.

Claims of FBI role in Jan. 6 Capitol attack are false
Facebook users have shared an open letter from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., in which he demands FBI Director Christopher Wray "fully disclose the role and involvement of FBI operatives during the January 6th Capitol riot." Other users shared a clip of Carlson's June 15 show, during which he said "FBI operatives were organizing the attack on the Capitol on January 6.

That theory relies on a false assumption: that anyone identified as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in charging documents is a government agent. 

In fact, legal experts say that term cannot be used to describe FBI agents or undercover government operatives. Charging documents and other evidence indicate that the Jan. 6 rioters included Trump supporters, conspiracy theorists and members of far-right groups.

Yes, Tucker Carlson Called a Top U.S. Military General a ‘Pig’
Fox News primetime host Tucker Carlson called U.S. Army four-star Gen. Mark Milley "stupid" and a "pig."

Misinformation About WHO’s COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance for Children
A World Health Organization advisory group has concluded that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine “is suitable for use by people aged 12 years and above,” and is specifically recommending it for children ages 12 to 15 who are at high risk of severe COVID-19. The WHO did not say “stop giving kids the vaxx immediately,” as some have claimed online.

Read More

The BMJ didn’t say PCR tests are useless

No, the video doesn't prove COVID-19 vaccines will connect you to Bluetooth

"(Vaccine) connected to Bluetooth!!" claims a June 13 Instagram video. 

The video, which is in Spanish, shows a man who purportedly received a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on May 21. A smartphone with its Bluetooth pairing mode enabled is brought close to his vaccinated arm. Under "Other devices," a device named "HBPC-J43" appears.

We rate the claim that Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine shows up on Bluetooth devices FALSE, based on our research. None of the COVID-19 vaccines contain any elements or technologies that would enable Bluetooth connectivity. The device name HBPC-J43 seen in the video is actually a type of Bluetooth speaker sold in Chile.

Claim by Donald Trump (R): Georgia didn’t update its voter rolls prior to the 2020 presidential election; “this means we (you!) won the presidential election in Georgia.”

Pants on Fire Rating: Normal procedure. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced that the state is in the process of removing about 100,000 obsolete and outdated voter files. Most of the flagged individuals had moved.

Anthony Fauci did not privately back hydroxychloroquine to family while questioning it publicly


Recommended reads

Americ-Amnesia: The Post-Truth Era Began with Lead Lobby

When people successfully confuse the public about what is true that leaves people looking to leaders to tell them what is true. What happened in 2020 was not out of nowhere.

It began with the lead lobby. They went after scientists and pediatricians and passed it off as only affecting people of color. They appealed to kids in advertising and worst of all, they knew. They knew it was harmful, and they blamed the parents for letting kids be exposed.

Read More

Myth Of The “Liberal Media” Part 4: What Would Liberal Media Really Look Like?
Note:
This article has a strong left-leaning bias; however, it is not deceptive about that and makes accurate claims about media manipulation.

Share