torsdag 12. januar 2023

How COVID Misinformation Swamped Chinese Social Media

Last month, a self-identified “biologist with a Ph.D. from an American university” wrote on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo that he had tested positive for XBB — an offshoot of Omicron — just five days after a separate COVID-19 infection. The post, made as case counts were skyrocketing in China, was quickly reshared by well-known influencers, including Weibo CEO Wang Gaofei.

The post tapped into widespread fears that China’s reopening was not the end of the pandemic, but merely the beginning of a period of infection and reinfection that could last years. There was just one problem: It was fake. After users questioned the speed with which the poster’s sample had been identified, he explained that it had been genetically sequenced by his colleagues at the Suzhou Center for Disease Control and Prevention lab. Officials with the local CDC called the police: They couldn’t find the poster’s name on their employee roster, and more importantly, the lab he referenced didn’t exist. Two days later, Chinese police identified the self-proclaimed biology Ph.D. as a clerk at a convenience store.