We’ve published more than 5,000 fact-checks about the coronavirus. Here are the 5 most popular

May 12, 2020
Category: Fact-Checking,IFCN

Last week, the CoronaVirusFacts Alliance database grew to over 5,000 fact-checks. The International Fact-Checking Network also released its WhatsApp chatbot, putting the combined effort of over 70 fact-checking networks from more than 40 countries in the palm of your hand.

The database unites fact-checkers around the world in publishing, sharing and translating facts surrounding the new coronavirus. The alliance was launched in January when the spread of the virus was restricted to China but already causing rampant misinformation globally. It is the largest collaborative project ever launched in the fact-checking world.

Here are five of the most popular claims our audience is searching for.

Pope Francis asked believers to put a white handkerchief on their doorsteps to protect them from the plague.

Maldita.es’s WhatsApp channel received multiple requests to fact-check a viral message claiming the Pope had requested the faithful tie a white handkerchief around their doorknobs.

“Please pass the message on to all who have faith,” the claim read.

Maldita combed through publications of the Vatican News and the Pope’s homilies and found no evidence the Pope said anything close to that, so the network marked it false.

Autopsies performed by the Italians showed that COVID-19 is not pneumonia-like. COVID is disseminated intravascular coagulation (thrombosis). So the way to combat it is with antibiotics.

This debunk is a bit trickier because the claim weaves elements of truth into its greater falsehood. As Mexican fact-checking network Animal Politico pointed out in its fact-check, “thrombosis” (blood-clotting) is showing up in some COVID-19 patients. However this is only one of many possible impacts of the disease.

The network cited preliminary studies from Italy to show that some COVID-19 patients are experiencing thrombosis, but more research is warranted.

It also cited epidemiologist and Mexico’s undersecretary for prevention and health promotion, Hugo López-Gatell, who said COVID-19 causes inflammation in the lungs, which can obstruct blood vessels.

In addressing whether to treat COVID-19 with antibiotics, Animal Politico points to guidance from the World Health Organization and most high school science teachers: COVID-19 is a virus, and antibiotics don’t work on viruses.

A video of discredited virologist Judy Mikovits in which she launches numerous theories about the new coronavirus.

Maldita.es confronted this claim in April and debunked each of Mikovits’s many falsehoods.

She claimed the flu vaccine makes people more susceptible to COVID-19. Maldita refuted this  , citing its own fact-check, which noted that a U.S. Army study cited by Mikovits never established a cause-and-effect relationship.

Mikovits also claimed the virus was either released from a lab in Wuhan, China, or injected into the populace via other vaccinations. Maldita cited the scientific consensus that the virus originated in nature. The network also pointed to Spain’s Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization to defend the safety of vaccines.

Finally, Maldita pointed out Mikovits’s expertise has been challenged.  She continued to claim one of her own studies was valid after it had been disproven and retracted from a respected medical journal. Maldita then referenced health fact-checking network Salud Sin Bulos to show Mikovits’s support for debunked anti-vaccine conspiracies.

A claim that countries are throwing bodies of  COVID-19 victims into the sea with an image showing bodies washed ashore.

FactCrescendo debunked this claim by taking apart the video frame-by-frame. The fact-checker used a reverse image search to discover the video was actually showing the bodies of African migrants who had washed up in Libya after trying to cross into Europe.

FactCrescendo went a step further citing the WHO’s report that there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread by a corpse.

Dr. Charles Lieber, a Harvard professor, was arrested for creating coronavirus and selling it to China.

This claim popped up in multiple countries, however Newtral.es and India Today quickly dispatched this hoax.

Both pointed to a Justice Department statement outlining that Lieber was arrested for lying to investigators about foreign conflicts of interest. Newtral added that a local news video used to support the claim never mentioned COVID-19.

 

Harrison Mantas is a reporter for the International Fact-Checking Network covering fact-checking and misinformation. Reach him at hmantas@poynter.org or on Twitter at @HarrisonMantas.