Wearing a face mask does not activate a secret, vaccine-delivered form of the coronavirus in your system, regardless of what one disgraced scientist says on social media. And no, there is no evidence that Bill Gates is orchestrating it all to make himself even richer.
Facebook, Vimeo, YouTube and Twitter are taking steps to slow the spread of Plandemic, a viral video clip in which Dr. Judy Mikovits pushes a wild collection of baseless and potentially harmful conspiracy theories about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Mikovits is a discredited scientist with a history of promoting falsehoods around vaccines.
Mikovits’ most bonkers claim in the video might be her one about masks and the vaccine. She claims, without evidence, that flu vaccines have been used to implant a dormant form of the coronavirus in people’s bodies and that wearing a mask “literally activates your own virus,” according to Mitkovits.
That is literally not true, as many scientists and fact-checkers have pointed out in recent days, including Science Magazine.
“Suggesting that wearing a mask can make you sick could lead to imminent harm, so we’re removing the video,” Facebook said in a statement.
“There is nothing about wearing a mask that would have any biologically relevant impact on viral activity,” Richard Peltier, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, told PolitiFact for a fact-check. “Wearing a mask simply catches the droplets before they reach our mouth or nose. It isn’t rocket science, and Dr. Mikovits should know that.”
Nevertheless, this bizarre vaccine-plus-mask theory is one of several misleading claims in the 26-minute Plandemic video, which reportedly racked up more than eight million views on Facebook and YouTube before it was taken down.
The video is from a larger upcoming documentary that plays upon the fears of anti-vaxxers and others who doubt medical science by claiming to “expose the scientific and political elite who run the scam that is our global health system.”
It also targets Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top doctor on the White House coronavirus task force, with whom Mikovits has a long-running grudge and promotes the unfounded conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was manufactured in China. Scientists have said there is no evidence that the virus was manufactured in a Wuhan lab, as the “theory” goes.
The video is largely based on interviews with Mikovits, a discredited scientist who once co-authored a paper linking chronic fatigue syndrome to a virus in rats. That paper hit like a bombshell in 2009, but the prestigious Science journal retracted it in 2011 after discovering that others could not reproduce the same findings and that Mikovits’ work was based on contaminated DNA samples. There is still no known cause of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Mikovits refused to acknowledge the flaws in her work and claimed she was being targeted by top U.S. scientists at the time. She was fired from her lab after the paper was retracted, then she was jailed for a few days on allegations that she stole lab data and a laptop from her former workplace. The charges were dropped due to other issues involving the lab.
Mikovits has not published anything in a scientifically reputable journal since 2012, although she has co-authored two bestselling books with Kent Heckenlively, a noted anti-vaxxer. She also continues to claim, without evidence, that she is a leading HIV-AIDS researcher and that Fauci was trying to “cover up” AIDS to make money off of it in the 1980s.
She appears to have been pushing her “virus delivered via vaccine” claim for several years and only recently adapted it to include the coronavirus, according to a fact-check by Snopes. The site looked into her claim in 2018 that Fauci had her jailed over her discredited discovery and found it to be false.
Mikovits appears to have achieved a level of far-right, pseudo-scientific celebrity with the publication of her latest book, Plague of Corruption, which has shot to the top of the charts on Amazon amid the current pandemic.
The far-right conspiracy theory machine has essentially adopted Mikovits as its new star and supposed whistleblower, Renee DiResta, a disinformation researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory, told the New York Times.
Mikovits has declined to provide comment on stories about her to various mainstream outlets, including Reuters and the New York Times. However, she has embraced several smaller far-right publications that have amplified her message as a whistle-blowing, anti-Fauci crusader.
Mikki Willis, head of the Elevate Films company behind Plandemic, has publicly said more clips from the documentary are coming in the future. He has also declined to comment on the false claims in the first clip.
However, Willis’ YouTube channel shows he has posted about many conspiracy theories in the past. One video shows him indulging the idea that billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself.
Facebook and YouTube say they’ve been trying to quash Mikovits’ Plandemic video on their platforms for promoting false and potentially harmful medical advice in recent weeks, including the unfounded claim that wearing a face mask will somehow “activate” the coronavirus. The video also makes several misleading or downright false claims in order to weave a “grand conspiracy theory” around the virus, according to FactCheck.org.
Twitter has not pulled clips of the video down, but the platform has banned users from using certain hashtags related to the video.
Conspiracy theorists continue to share edited versions of the video in their social media circles, where many of Mikowits’ claims go along with popular narratives on the far right. Mikowits has also tweeted about getting her message through to U.S. President Donald Trump, who has frequently indulged pseudoscience and spread conspiracy theories whenever they seem favourable to him.
The world’s top social media companies have promised the World Health Organization that they will remove misleading medical information during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nevertheless, a wide range of conspiracy theories continue to flourish around the virus, including baseless claims that Bill Gates engineered it, that 5G cell towers somehow help it and that it’s all a hoax to make Trump look bad.
There is no evidence to support any of these claims.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.
— With files from Reuters