COLUMN: Bad information more dangerous than ever

COLUMN: Bad information more dangerous than ever

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If you’re on Facebook, you probably saw it this past week: a video that spread rapidly, and that’s almost as dangerous as the virus it covered.

It is with sad irony that the “Plandemic” video went viral, because accurate and reliable information is more important than ever while the world continues to battle a global pandemic.

The video purported to uncover myriad conspiracy theories surrounding the new coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. The 26-minute, documentary-style video contained precious little information that was accurate or reliable.

At a time like this, that is dangerous.

Still, that did not stop the video from making the rounds: It racked up more than 1.8 million views and was shared nearly 150,000 times, according to Digital Trends.

In the video, an interviewer discusses the coronavirus with Dr. Judy Mikovits, whose previous work has been discredited and, in one case, sparked a lawsuit.

Mikovits makes many claims in the video that were widely and in some cases easily debunked by fact-checkers. To highlight a few, no there is no evidence the virus was manipulated; COVID-19 is a new disease, not one that is derived from SARS; there is no evidence federal Medicaid payments incentivize physicians to label a death as COVID-related; and no studies have showed hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for COVID-19.

In short, the video is overflowing with claims that are at best misleading and at worst outright lies.

That such a video exists is frightening enough. That it gained so much traction in such a short time is scarier. Multiple social media platforms, including YouTube, worked to remove the video from their networks for violating company policies.

Conspiracy theories can be fun to entertain. But they can also be dangerous. Just ask the family of Seth Rich.

When conspiracy theories contain misinformation about a virus that has killed more than 80,000 Americans amid a global pandemic, that’s not just irresponsible. It is dangerous.

This message should be evergreen, but it’s even more important now: We need to get our information from reliable sources. This is literally life-and-death stuff. We should be listening to the experts, especially in the public health and medical fields.

And by experts, I mean the ones working in an official capacity and whose goals are to better understand this virus and how to handle it with the public’s health foremost of mind. Not the outliers, like the wannabe YouTube stars with a checkered past.

So here is a humble plea to everyone out there to be careful about what information you are consuming and sharing on social media. As Gov. Kim Reynolds keeps saying, we’re all on this together. Let’s make sure we’re fighting this battle with the appropriate knowledge.

Senate debates

Two debates are being scheduled for the Democratic primary in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race.

Several Iowa television stations are organizing a debate that would be broadcast Saturday, according to one of the candidates’ campaigns. The debate will be broadcast on KCCI-TV in Des Moines, KWWL-TV in Waterloo and Cedar Rapids, KTIV-TV in Sioux City, KETV-TV in Council Bluffs, and WGEM-TV in southeast Iowa.

Iowa PBS will broadcast a debate at 8 p.m. Monday, May 18.

Theresa Greenfield, Michael Franken, Eddie Mauro and Kimberly Graham are seeking the Democratic nomination and the right to challenge first-term incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst.

Iowa’s primary election is June 2.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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