Threats, Fact-Checks, and Reads #3.25.21

Everything about variants, no the vaccines can't do that or that or that, immigration disinformation, and a call to fight disinformation nationally

Threats, Fact-Checks, and Reads

  • Covid-19

  • Threats

  • Fact-Checks

  • Research

  • Reads

COVID-19 Vaccine Data

Vaccines will be available to every American no later than May 1st, but in many states, it’s earlier.

Total Doses Distributed

  • 173,525,335

Total Doses Administered

  • 133,305,295

Dr. Eric Topol on variants, vaccines, and AstraZeneca’s data reporting

This week Mark and Margaret speak with Dr. Eric Topol, Director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute. Dr. Topol calls drugmaker AstraZeneca’s recent controversial under-reporting of complete safety data to US regulators for its COVID-19 vaccine ‘disturbing’ and ‘unprecedented’ in his clinical trial career.

He calls the rapid development of highly successful and effective COVID vaccines one of biomedicine’s greatest achievements and predicts the pandemic crisis will pave the way for more remarkable scientific breakthroughs, and a greater opportunity for the growth of personalized medicine via smartphones.


Few Facts, Millions Of Clicks: Fear Mongering Vaccine Stories Go Viral Online

A new NPR analysis finds that articles connecting vaccines and death have been among the most highly engaged-with content online this year. The findings also illustrate a broader trend in online misinformation: With social media platforms making more of an effort to take down patently false health claims, bad actors are turning to cherry-picked truths to drive misleading narratives. Experts say these storylines are much harder for companies to moderate, though they can have the same net effect of creating a distorted and false view of the world.

Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Calls for a National Strategy to Fight M/Disinformation 

The call for action recommends pillars for handling the situation based on what we know from research thus far. Disinformation could be leveraged against the US during crises--as it has been over the Covid pandemic--to devastating effect. With the addition of disinformation, a natural outbreak could become as damaging as a biological weapon. We need a national strategy and we've needed one since 2000. 

  • Pillar 1: Intervene against false and damaging content as well as the sources propagating it

  • Pillar 2: Promote and ensure the abundant presence and dissemination of factual information

  • Pillar 3: Increase the public’s resilience to misinformation and disinformation

  • Pillar 4: Ensure a whole-of-nation response through multi-sector and multi-agency collaboration

Everything you need to know about Kim Jong Un’s first major challenge to the Biden administration

JUST IN: First came the firing of cruise missiles, which Joe Biden dismissed with a laugh as nothing new. Now comes the launch of ballistic missiles—decidedly less of a laughing matter. North Korea never waits long to greet a new US president with a challenge, and Biden now has his in the form of projectiles landing off the coast of Japan.

What does it all mean? We checked in with Markus Garlauskas, who in June departed his post as America’s top intelligence officer for North Korea analysis.

Immigration Disinformation: Data to See Before Weighing in on the Border

It’s hard to know what’s happening with the apocalyptic claims, but as always, the data never lies. Unfortunately, people do. 

Fact Checks

Inaccurate Covid vaccine ‘Q&A’: fact-checked

A Covid-19 vaccine “Q&A” sheet has been circulating on social media. It presents a checklist of claims about the vaccine, alongside ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers. Some of the claims are inaccurate and suggest the mRNA vaccines may be dangerous.

The Covid-19 vaccines have been tested to the same high standards as any vaccine would be. While side effects are common, these are overwhelmingly minor and pass within a few days. VAERS is often misrepresented as a database of vaccine injuries. It’s open to the public and anybody can submit a claim. Consequently, VAERS cannot and has never been able to show causality. That isn’t what it’s for, which is early detection of problems like batch issues with vaccines. 

Facebook posts touting pineapple drinks misrepresent research on potential Covid-19 treatment

A screenshot of a news report detailing research on a potential Covid-19 treatment that involves pineapple plants has been shared on Facebook alongside photos of pineapple drinks. The posts, however, are misleading: the research noted in the news report evaluates a potential Covid-19 treatment that uses a pineapple enzyme combined with another agent; a researcher involved in the project told AFP that pineapple drinks “will not work” against Covid-19.

Is a deluge of misinformation driving a surge in coronavirus cases in Papua New Guinea?

"Papua New Guinea's health crisis has now reached the level we feared it would a year ago with a surge in cases," Ms. Schuetze said. "A combination of an ailing health system and inadequate living has created a perfect storm for COVID-19 to thrive in the country's overcrowded informal settlements."

She added that misinformation within the PNG community was "rife", and that there had been suggestions that the pandemic was a "government conspiracy".

"This has also been fuelled by the Government at times publishing inaccurate information on the number of confirmed cases. There is no effective public information campaign by the Government to dispel the misinformation."

Instagram Post Misrepresents FDA Document About Monitoring Vaccine Safety

A popular Instagram post cites a government document to falsely claim that federal officials know that the COVID-19 vaccines cause death and other dangerous side effects — “yet will not publicly warn”

Are Global Sperm Counts and Penis Sizes Shrinking Drastically?

The "alarming decline" may correspond with human exposure to a common class of chemicals found in everyday products.

Fake news: people with greater emotional intelligence are better at spotting misinformation

Fake news has been particularly associated with high-profile events like the 2016 Brexit referendum, the 2016 US presidential election, and the pandemic. It has shaken trust in institutions, governments, and even the COVID vaccine.

But our new study shows fake news doesn’t affect everyone equally. People with greater emotional intelligence are better at spotting it.

CNN Did NOT Claim Colorado Shooter Was Factually Arabic But Morally White

Fact-Checking Biden’s First Press Conference

In his first press conference since being inaugurated 64 days ago, President Joe Biden got some facts wrong.


Data from YouGov’s COVID-19 tracker shows that perceptions of vaccine safety are also improving  

Since December 2020, YouGov has been tracking public attitudes towards vaccination across Europe, the Americas, APAC, and the Middle East. 

Looking at four of our international markets reveals some significant changes in sentiment during the initial phase of the vaccine rollout across the UK, the US, Germany, and France.  

QAnon Adherents Far More Likely to Have Serious Mental Illness, Research Shows

QAnon is often viewed as a group associated with conspiracy, terrorism, and radical action, such as the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.


Vaccine infertility claims on YouTube sweep across fringe platforms

False claims about Covid-19 vaccines as vehicles for sterilization as well as claims that the vaccines are abortion drugs have been widely shared among conspiracy theory and anti-vaccination communities since the rollout of the vaccines.

We need to know more about political ads. But can transparency be a trap?

By setting policy on it, social platforms have demonstrated they know transparency matters when it comes to political advertising. But they’re also able to control the terms of that transparency. Here are eight big questions that arose when we began scrutinizing the current landscape for advertising transparency.

Online Conspiracy Theorists Swarm ‘HRC’ Suez Canal Boat Jam