Covid Test Misinformation Spikes Along With Spread of Omicron

On Dec. 29, The Gateway Pundit, a far-right website that often spreads conspiracy theories, published an article that falsely suggested that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revoked the authorization of all PCR tests to detect Covid-19. Has pulled. The article has garnered 22,000 likes, comments and shares on Facebook and Twitter.

On TikTok and Instagram, videos of home-made Covid-19 tests showing positive results after soaking in drinking water and juice have gone viral in recent weeks, and coronavirus quick tests are used to further misrepresent that they don’t work. Health experts say some household liquid tests may show positive results, but the tests remain accurate when used as directed. A TikTok video showing a positive home test after being placed under running water was shared at least 140,000 times.

And on YouTube, a video titled “Rapid Antigen Tests Debunked” was posted in January. 1 Canadian far-right website by Rebel News. It generated over 40,000 views, and its comment section was a center of misinformation. A comment with more than 200 likes said, “The direct purpose of this test is to keep Case # as high as possible to maintain fear and incentive for further sanctions.” “And of course profit.”

Misinformation about Covid-19 tests has spread across social media in recent weeks, researchers say, as cases of coronavirus around the world have risen again due to the highly contagious omikron type.

The explosion of misinformation further hampers public efforts to control the health crisis. Previous spikes in epidemic-related lies centered on the severity of vaccines, masks and viruses. While lies help undermine best practices for controlling the spread of coronavirus, health experts say misinformation remains a major factor in vaccine hesitation.

The categories include lies that PCR tests do not work; K Flu and Covid-19 case counts have been combined; That PCR tests are vaccines in disguise; And whether or not home-made rapid tests have predictable results or are unreliable because different liquids can make them positive.

These themes jumped to thousands of mentions in the last three months of 2021, compared to just a few dozen in the same period in 2020, according to Zignal Labs, which mentions social media, cable television and print and online. Outlets

Omicron has found the “right moment” to exploit misinformation researchers because of the increased demand for testing and the high prevalence of success cases, said Colina Coltai, a researcher at the University of Washington who studies online conspiracy theories. False descriptions “support the whole idea of ​​not believing the number of infections or the number of deaths,” she said.

Gateway Pundit did not respond to a request for comment. TikTok pointed to its policies that prohibit misinformation that could harm people’s physical health. YouTube said it was reviewing a video shared by the New York Times on its Covid-19 misinformation policy testing and diagnostics. Twitter said it had issued a warning to Gateway Pundit’s article in December for its violation. Coronavirus misinformation policy And even tweets that contain misinformation about widely accepted testing methods will violate its policy. But the company said it was not taking action Personal jokes,

Facebook said it has worked with its fact-checking partners and has labeled many posts with warnings that direct people to fact-checking false claims, and reduce their preference over its users’ feeds.

“Epidemic challenges are constantly changing, and we’re constantly on the lookout for false claims emerging on our platforms,” ​​Aaron Simpson, a Facebook user, said in an email.

No medical examination is complete, and legitimate questions about the accuracy of the Covid-19 tests abound throughout the epidemic. There is always the risk of a false positive or false negative outcome. The Food and Drug Administration says antigen tests are likely to give false positive results when users do not follow the instructions. These tests are usually accurate when used properly but in some cases a positive result can be seen when exposed to other liquids. Glenn Patriquin, who published a study about false positives in antigen tests using various fluids in the publication of the American Society for Microbiology.

Dr. Assistant Professor of Pathology at Dalhousie University in Patriquin, Nova Scotia.

Complicated matters, there have been some defective products. Last year, Australian company Alume recalled nearly 2 million at-home testing products shipped to the United States.

But when used properly, coronavirus tests are considered reliable for detecting people with high levels of the virus. Experts say that our growing knowledge of tests should be a separate issue from the lies about testing that are so widespread on social media – although it makes it more challenging to debunk those lies.

“Science is inherently uncertain and there are changes that make it extremely difficult to deal with misinformation,” she said. Coltai said.

Researchers say lies are on the rise despite attempts by social media companies to crack down, and there are many lies that have surfaced in the past.

John Gregory, deputy health editor at Newsgard, said the increase “matches the pattern of misinformation industry during epidemics,” which rates the credibility of news sites and tracks the prevalence of misinformation about Covid-19 and the vaccine. “Whatever the current mainstream story, they find their own story to undermine it.”

The CDC said in July that it would withdraw its request to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorization of certain tests by the end of the year. Hundreds of other Covid-19 tests are still available from other manufacturers, the CDC later clarified.

However, posts claiming the agency withdrew support for PCR tests went viral on Facebook. According to data from CrowdTangle, a social media analytics tool owned by Facebook, the most shared post promoting lies in July collected 11,500 likes, shares and comments. The lie added to the post that the CDC’s advice meant that PCR tests could not distinguish between coronavirus and flu, when in fact the agency only recommended the use of tests that could simultaneously detect and distinguish between flu and covid-19.

Despite fact-checking within days, the lawsuit was never settled out of court. Gateway Pundit’s article revived the claim at the end of the year, collecting almost twice as many likes, shares and comments as the previous post on Facebook. Screenshots of the article also went viral, collecting hundreds of likes on Instagram.

Mr. Gregory said the same thing happened with social media posts claiming that various liquid home-based coronavirus tests were positive.

A video on YouTube on Dec. 23, 2020, showed coronavirus testing positive after testing on kiwi, orange and berry fruit juices. It collected over 102,000 views. That same month, a video with similar results was posted on YouTube with Coca-Cola, which garnered 16,800 views.

A year later, similar videos with similar themes appeared on Tiktok and Instagram.

Ms. For. The re-emergence of false stories, even after social media companies labeled them a year ago, demonstrates the power of misinformation to “grow when it can stick to the current event.”

“This way the descriptions can come to a head at different times,” she said.

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