Threats, Fact Checks, and Reads #4.2.21

Serial Flash Media Manipulation, Data Voids, Vaccine Hesitancy, and Covid Stats and Facts, and Pfizer OK for Kids

Covid Cases

  • 30,277,908 Total Cases

    +64,149 New Cases


  • 549,098 Total Deaths

    +917 New Deaths

Total Vaccine Doses

  • Delivered: 200,496,635

  • Administered: 153,631,404

Estimated Percentage of People Who Have Immunity By State

Seroprevalence surveys use blood tests to see who has antibodies against the virus that causes Covid-19. People who have been infected will likely have these antibodies in their blood.


Cyber-enabled information operation targets Poland with radiological leak hoax

Malicious actors carried out operations after a U.S. company announced plans to invest in Poland’s nuclear power program. The information operation consisted of several steps.

Read More via Digital Forensics Lab

Coordinated, Inauthentic Activity on Social Media

Translation: We’re seeing topics like #OpenSchoolsNow, #BidenBorderCrisis, and #BodiesUnderBridges erupt in a media frenzy comprised nearly exclusively of low-quality sources and inauthentic activity.

  • Coordinated: working together

  • Inauthentic: paid users or computerized accounts

  • Activity: sharing, retweeting, liking, and commenting

It’s unlikely that real accounts are behind it. We will report more exhaustively later this week but can share some of what we know now.

The hashtag #BidenBorderCrisis appeared to be artificially amplified by bot-like accounts. The activity centered around a video, made by a company with a history of generating misleading content, some of which ultimately cost the founder $100,000 in the form of a fine.

The social media activity surrounding these “breaking news” stories follows a pattern. A few accounts share polarizing, false, or misleading claims. The media is then amplified by a coordinated chorus. All of this is fortified by fake accounts and low-quality news outlets.

We would be remiss not to note that the data has a selection bias, so conclusions should be viewed with some skepticism. Stories like the ones described, particularly #bidenbordercrisis and #bodiesunderbridges, have the potential to inspire violence, something we have seen repeatedly in the US. That is why we note what appears to be an intentional effort to alarm the public.

The spread of the #BodiesUnderBridges begins with crickets. For the first couple of hours, only three users appear in the hashtag network: Benny Johnson, James O’Keefe, and Dan Rodimer. Although Twitter banned O’Keefe’s business account, his private one remains despite his repeated violations. This is typical of provocateurs aiming to create the impression of censorship.

By repeatedly daring platforms by violating their terms and policies, the platforms are pressured to stop them. If they act, the event will be covered as an episode of censorship. If they allow someone to continue, the person carries on with manipulative and false content. It leaves the platforms with few good options.

An analysis shows that much like the #BidenBorderCrisis, a Project Veritas video release was the content used by accounts to drive discussion on the topic. We see two messages and little else for a couple of hours. When someone interacts with the original tweets, it’s not in support. These are critics. Immediately following that, we see a frenzy of content. It’s unclear if this interaction was the trigger or something else.

Investigation of the key nodes turned up accounts that are likely bots. We will report on this more fully in an individual article later next week. There appears to be a pattern of media manipulation.

  1. Stories are published by unreliable websites using the key terms that will later be used in the media campaign.

  2. A shocking claim or misleading video surfaces and triggers a media frenzy.

  3. The event is manufactured, which means that most of the content for the new term, will be that which media manipulators want the audience to see.

    • These are called data voids. Bad actors use unique or strategic terms that have little content online. When people see the keywords trending and search for them, the media manipulator’s content will likely show up. We’ve seen it over and over.

    • The most famous instance revolved around the “crisis actors” claim, which now exists in most Americans’ minds. Even if you don’t believe it, it will always be there to cast doubt on the truth.

  4. Eventually, the media has to negate the claims, but this feeds into fear and paranoia. It’s more convincing. People go to look for answers, but all they find is the content created by the people behind the story. These efforts often use propaganda tactics and can be highly effective.

Writing into the Void

Earlier this year our editor spotted a data void and quickly published content to ensure that something reliable existed for a very specific term. She did not advertise the content once it was published in The Startup on Medium.

So few sources existed on this topic that Google was sending everyone to a handful of sites that had the term (mostly fake news mills and then, our article inThe Startup). A top article for “Operation Talon” was a Breitbart article.

Most of this traffic came from Google searches in a day or two, and there are no friend link views, which normally drive her traffic. Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, are all search engines, suggesting the article came up in searches. The article had no paid advertising.

Vaccine Hesitancy

Percentage of people refusing vaccines by state, colored for 2020 election outcomes, and the percentage of “fake news” content in those states. Vaccine refusal seems to tie more strongly to Republican voting than the amount of fake news. That’s consistent with what we find in other studies.

While it has not specifically been examined, it’s likely that Republicans who consume reliable media and who don’t trust the former President for medical advice have a higher acceptance of vaccines. The anti-vaccine propaganda has come out as if from a firehose, and mostly through far-right media outlets of questionable repute.

Anti-vaccine content now generates over a billion dollars per year with zero accountability, so we’re unlikely to see change until the public has recourse against the platform prioritizing profit. Posts that violate Facebook and Twitter’s terms of service still appear today, April 2, 2021. One group appears to be a place to discuss vaccine side effects, but if you look at the URL, one can see that likely wasn’t the page’s first name or aim:

64% of people who joined an extremist group on Facebook only did so because the company’s algorithm recommended it to them.

Wall-Street Journal Investigation

Facebook famously knew that its algorithm was pushing people into more extremist groups—driving over 60% of the traffic into these groups, but it did nothing because these groups generated profit.

Fact Checks

No, This Video Doesn’t Show Actors Posing as ‘Dead Rona Bodies for the News’

A video showing a man in a body bag smoking a cigarette was taken out of context.

Viral claims say that George Floyd’s death was a fentanyl overdose. It wasn’t.

No, the autopsy doesn’t say George Floyd died of an overdose.

  • Two autopsy reports said the manner of George Floyd’s death was a homicide. Neither said the cause of his death was a fentanyl overdose.

  • The Hennepin County medical examiner found fentanyl in Floyd’s system, but the autopsy said the cause of his death was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicated by law-enforcement subdual restraint, and neck compression.”

  • Experts told the Washington Post they did not believe Floyd died from fentanyl.

Read More Via Politifact

No, the 2010 Census Data Could NOT Be Used To Cast Votes for The Dead And Departed in 2020, Nor Were Vote Machines Hacked

The false claim originated in an article published by LindellTV on March 31, 2021, titled "Mike Lindell TV Releases Irrefutable Election Theft Proof" (archived here), which refers to statements made by Douglas Frank, a Ph.D. analytical chemist from Cincinnati, Ohio.

  • By law, 2010 census data at the individual name level will not be available until 2082, and the U.S. Census Bureau and cybersecurity agencies say there has been no data breach.

An article misrepresents US data on deaths after vaccinations

An article claims the number of “vaccine-related deaths” in the United States in 2021 surpasses that of the past decade, as a national Covid-19 inoculation campaign accelerates. It doesn’t.

  • VAERS data cannot and has never been able to show causality.

Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine are not proven treatments

Related Reads:

This video does not show Covid-19 victims -- it shows a Russian music video being filmed

The filming of the music video was covered by the Russian media organization on September 4, 2020. Mannequins wrapped in body bags were used for the music video, reported.

The music video was filmed on this street in the Russian capital Moscow.

‘Harvard University Branch of the Ku Klux Klan’ in 1924

The circulating claim states, “Members of the Harvard University branch of the Ku Klux Klan pose for a graduation photo on Class Day 1924 at the foot of the John Harvard Statue in Harvard Yard.” This is true.

Read More from Truth or Fiction

A Viral Video Spreads Misinformation at the Speed of Light

See Full Explanations at Full Fact

Fact-Checking Claims About Asylum Grants and Immigration Court Attendance

  • While discussing ways to quickly determine if people who cross into the U.S. through Mexico are eligible for asylum, Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio claimed that “only about half of them even show up for their court cases” and “only 15% of them qualify” for asylum. But government statistics aren’t that clear-cut.

  • A study published last year in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review found that “88% of all immigrants in immigration court with completed or pending removal cases over the past eleven years attended all of their court hearings.” 

  • The analysis of government data also revealed that 95% of non-detained individuals who filed for asylum or other forms of relief from removal attended all of their court hearings over the same time period from 2008 to 2018, the authors said.

Last week Novel Science teamed up with Rantt to check immigration claims against the data.

The numbers and the drug seizures reveal that while the situation is critical, the evidence doesn’t support the claims that either President Biden in 2021 or Trump in 2019 could be blamed for the steep uptick in migrants.

Read the Article Published in Rantt

Unfounded Claims About Colorado Gunman

A social media post is spreading baseless claims that the shooter accused of killing 10 people in Boulder, Colorado, came to the U.S. “Illegally from [M]exico and purchased the firearm from a guy that sells stolen guns.” Law enforcement officials say the suspect came to the U.S. from Syria as a child, and the gun used was legally purchased.



Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine safe for children as young as 12

Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine in clinical trials demonstrated “100% efficacy and robust antibody responses” in 12-to-15-year olds, the companies said Wednesday. 

Biden COVID transition team advisor Dr. Celine Gounder on the race against variants

Recommended Reads:

Noted cult expert Dr. Steve Hassan shared a Novel Science article, so we’re including that this week.

When pseudoscience is a recipe for business success

From unproven cancer treatments to supplements for hormonal imbalance, some CEOs and business leaders have taken advantage of promoting a variety of pseudohealth cures.

How to Hold an Election During the Coronavirus Pandemic: Lessons Learned from Portugal

Biden Revokes Executive Order Sanctioning Int’l Criminal Court Principals

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