The origins of COVID-19 remain unclear. Three years after the start of the pandemic, it is still unclear whether the coronavirus that causes the disease leaked from a laboratory or spread to humans from an animal.
Here’s what’s known: When it comes to misinformation about COVID-19, any new report on the virus’s origin quickly triggers a relapse and a return of misleading claims about the virus, vaccines, and masks that have reverberated ever since. that the pandemic began.
It happened again this week after the Department of Energy confirmed that a classified report determined, with little confidence, that the virus escaped from a laboratory. report was proof that they were right all along.
Far from definitive, the Energy Department report is the latest in many attempts by scientists and officials to pinpoint the source of the virus, which has now killed nearly 7 million people after it was first detected in the central Chinese city. Wuhan at the end of 2019.
The report has not been made public, and officials in Washington stressed that a variety of US agencies disagree on its origin.
Many scientists believe the most likely explanation is that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 passed from animals to humans, possibly in Wuhan’s Huanan Market, a scenario supported by multiple studies and reports. The World Health Organization has said that while an animal origin is most likely, the possibility of a laboratory leak needs to be further investigated before it can be ruled out.
People should keep an open mind about the evidence used in the Department of Energy’s assessment, according to virologist Angela Rasmussen. But she said that without evaluating the evidence contained in the classified report, there is no reason to question the conclusion that the virus spread naturally.
“We can and we know what the scientific evidence shows,” Ms Rasmussen tweeted on Tuesday. “The available evidence still shows the occurrence of zoonoses in the Huanan market.”
Many of those who cited the report as evidence, however, did not seem interested in the evidence. They seized on the report, saying it suggested the experts were wrong when it came to masks and vaccines, too.
“Closing schools was a failed and catastrophic policy. Masks are ineffective. And harmful,” read a tweet that has been read nearly 300,000 times since Sunday. “COVID came from a lab. Everything we skeptics said was true.”
General mentions of COVID-19 began to rise after The Wall Street Journal published a story on the Department of Energy report on Sunday. Since then, mentions of various COVID-related conspiracy theories have skyrocketed, according to an analysis by Zignal Labs, a San Francisco-based media intelligence firm, and shared with The Associated Press.
While the lab leak theory has bounced around the internet since the pandemic began, references jumped 100,00% in the 48 hours after the Department of Energy report was released, according to Zignal’s analysis, which scoured the social networks, blogs and other sites.
Many of the conspiracy theories contradict each other and contradict the findings of the Department of Energy report. In a tweet on Tuesday, US Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, called COVID-19 a “man-made bioweapon in China.” Quickly a follower of hers challenged her: “It was made in Ukraine,” she replied.
With so many unanswered questions about a global event that has claimed so many lives and disrupted even more, it’s not at all surprising that COVID-19 is still capable of generating so much anger and misinformation, according to Bret Schafer, a senior fellow at the Alliance to Secure Security. Democracy, a Washington-based organization that has tracked government propaganda on COVID-19.
“The pandemic was incredibly upsetting for everyone. The intensity of feelings about COVID, I don’t think it’s going to go away,” Schafer said. “And every time something new comes along, it breathes new life into these complaints and frustrations, real or imagined.”
In the past, Chinese government officials have used their social media accounts to amplify anti-US conspiracy theories, including some that suggested the US created the COVID-19 virus and framed its release in China.
So far, they have taken a more low-key approach to the DOE report. In its official response, the Chinese government dismissed the agency’s assessment as an effort to politicize the pandemic. Online, Beijing’s sprawling propaganda and disinformation network remained largely silent, with only a few posts criticizing or mocking the report.
“BREAKING,” wrote a pro-China YouTuber on Twitter. “I can now announce, with ‘low confidence,’ that the COVID pandemic began as a leak from Hunter Biden’s laptop.”
This story was reported by The Associated Press.