For the past four months, 88 fact-checking networks in more than 70 countries have worked collaboratively to fight misinformation about COVID-19 by fact-checking claims on social media as well as questions from readers.
While we had newcomers to this week’s Top 5 list, 20,000 users (roughly 30%) were still interested in a claim we looked at two weeks ago— that Italian doctors had discovered COVID-19 is actually a blood-clotting disease.
This claim distorts reports by Italian doctors who found inflamed blood vessels in the bodies of COVID-19 victims. This inflammation is typical with a condition called thrombosis. But the claim cites these findings and suggests people should treat COVID-19 with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and anticoagulants.
Mexican fact-checking network Animal Politico debunked this claim by reviewing the studies, and finding this blood-clotting is not uncommon in cases of pneumonia, which can develop in COVID-19 patients. The fact-checkers reiterated the known science that antibiotics don’t treat viruses.
Still, Animal Politico Deputy Editorial Director Tania Montalvo reported this is one of the most popular claims on the network’s site. She believes Mexico’s history of poor public health is causing people to look for alternatives.
“We have a lot of stories about people waiting for hours or days only to receive an aspirin,” Montalvo wrote in a text conversation. She said because of this clotting misinformation, some on social media are recommending anti-inflammatories and anticoagulants, and that is leading some people to seek “natural remedies” with those properties.
Because of the popularity of this fact-check in our database, we wanted to both highlight it and reiterate this claim is false. Additionally, we are updating you with five new claims that have drawn a big audience in the past week.
1) Nostradamus saw it coming.
Michel de Nostradame was a 16th Century astrologer who gained renown for prophesying major world events, and (ironically) promoting hygiene as a treatment for the Black Plague. Most modern day Nostradamus conspiracy theories stem from his 1555 book “The Prophecies” where his seeming accuracy of predicting the Great Fire of London, and the rise of Adolph Hitler has led some to suggest he predicted Y2K and the September 11th terrorist attacks.
A debunked claim from Indian fact-checking network FactCrescendo stems from a video asserting that Nostradamus predicted COVID-19. It also claims Nostradamus predicted the elections of former U.S. President Barack Obama and current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with 9/11 and the collapse of the Idukki dam in India this summer.
FactCrescendo read through Nostradamus’ book and showed there was no mention of a pandemic or anything resembling the four other claims. Anticipating a skeptical audience, they offered up PDF copies of the book in French and English.
2) Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered caseloads of a Madagascar homeopathic COVID-19 remedy AND warned Africans not to trust the WHO.
This report from east African fact-checking network, PesaCheck, alleges Russian President Vladimir Putin threw his support behind an untested homeopathic COVID-19 treatment promoted by Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina, and he withdrew his support from the World Health Organization.
PesaCheck looked through Putin’s official statements and found no evidence of the Russian leader ever mentioning Madagascar or the supposed miracle cure. What they did find were statements of support from Kremlin spokesperson and close Putin confidant Dmitry Peskov, who effusively supported the work of the WHO.
Italian fact-checking network Pagella Politica came across a photo claiming to be from Bergamo, Italy — an area besieged by COVID-19. It shows rows of coffins inside a nondescript warehouse with the caption “STAY HOME,” implying those in the photo did not heed this warning.
Pagella Politica did some digging and discovered the coffins did not contain COVID-19 victims, but rather the bodies of 111 migrants who drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2013. Pagella offered three separate news reports to support its findings.
4) “Researcher” Andreas Kalcker says chlorine dioxide will cure COVID-19.
Spanish fact-checking network Maldita.es received this claim from numerous submissions on WhatsApp. It’s a video by anti-vaccine activist Andreas Kalcker discussing the merits of using chlorine dioxide to treat COVID-19. Kalcker had previously pitched the chemical as a cure for autism, which caused Amazon to remove his book in May 2019.
Maldita had seen versions of this claim before, and highlighted its previous fact-checks. In this third iteration, Maldita emphasized that chlorine dioxide is poisonous. It’s a common chemical used in bleach, which Maldita cited from a 2010 warning from Spain’s ministry of health.
5) A 14-year-old Indian astrologer predicted COVID-19.
Indian fact-checker Newschecker.in came across this claim both on YouTube and on Indian news outlets Punjab Kesari and Navodaya Times. It alleges a video from teenage Indian YouTuber Abhigya Anand predicted, “there will be a terrible war between humans and viruses in 2020.”
Newschecker.in tracked down the YouTube video, and found no reference to COVID-19. The video’s title did predict “SEVERE DANGER TO THE WORLD FROM NOV 2019 TO APRIL 2020.” However, Newschecker.in notes this broad claim does not prove the coming of a global pandemic.