BY: BAILEY CLURMAN
Fake news has circulated the media for years, but during the Covid-19 Pandemic it was especially prominent. Lies about mask wearing and conspiracy theories flooded the media, and led the public to be confused what information was true versus what was false. But, fake news regarding the Covid-19 vaccines especially fell victim into the fake news controversy.
Fake news is described as, “False news stories, often of a sensational nature, created to be widely shared or distributed for the purpose of generating revenue, or promoting or discrediting a public figure, political movement, company, etc.:”. In the case of the Covid-19 vaccines, the fake news was used to discredit a political movement, and company.
There are multiple fake news stories that circulate around the Covid-19 vaccines, but the idea that the vaccines contained a microchip that allowed the Government to track people was one of the craziest. This fake news story gained a lot of traction and caused great concern across the United States. It’s hard to pinpoint where this theory originated, but one large voice who emphasized this was “Charlamagne Tha God” who is the host of a popular radio show in New York.
Charlamagne expressed his thoughts regarding the vaccine, and mentioned that he believes President Trump only received the vaccine and encouraged others to just so that the Government could microchip them. This claim had no warrant or facts behind it, it was just a statement thrown out onto a radio show with many listeners by an influential radio talk show host. Videos then began being posted on social media, where people were showing their arms with these supposed magnets/microchips sticking out. These videos continued to push this narrative, and further insight paranoia across the country about the vaccines. Having a platform like Charlamagne’s radio show means that his words have power, which can rapidly cause the spread of fake news.
A few months after these claims, Economist/YouGov conducted a survey. They sampled 1500 adult participants. The results of this survey showed that 44% of Republicans, 19% of Democrats, and 24% of Independents believe that Bill Gates wants to implant microchips into the Covid-19 vaccines. This survey showcases just how much of an impact fake news can have on individuals beliefs.
Especially in this case, fake news can be very harmful. The claim that the vaccines contain a microchip is a public health risk. This caused many individuals to be weary of the vaccine, and ultimately deterred them from getting the vaccine. By choosing not to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, not only the individual denying the dose was affected, but the entire United States population. Getting the vaccine is very important because it will help protect you by creating an antibody response without you having to experience potentially severe illness or post-COVID conditions. Thus, the more people getting the vaccine, the better the chance of herd immunity which is when a large portion of a population becomes immune to Covid.
This fake news seems to spread faster than the facts, because it will cause controversy and conversation. So, how do we combat this spread of health misinformation? It’s important to research, and find other sources that verify this information before you spread fake news.
By spreading the fake news about the Covid-19 vaccine containing a microchip, this caused a mistrust of the government and doctors involved, which gave the media a bad reputation. The media is supposed to be used to provide accurate information to the public, so when fake news is being spread without fact checking, it can cause the public to question what is true versus what isn’t. This mistrust between the public and the media can cause reputable sources to lose their credibility, and ultimately result in the downfall of the media.