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Another Covid-19 Conspiracy Theory Aimed At Hospitals

author

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockApr 24 2020, 18:11 UTC

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

The Covid-19 pandemic has infected over 2.5 million people worldwide and resulted in the deaths of at least 192,000 people, with over 50,000 of them in the United States alone. Precaution measures have been put in place to limit further deaths, which has spurred a flurry of conspiracy theories.

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The #FilmYourHospital hashtag was recently a trending topic on Twitter, targeting hospitals and medical personnel. The purpose of the hashtag was to showcase that hospitals are actually empty and the severity of the pandemic has been exaggerated by the media. Twitter personalities egged their followers to film the waiting rooms and parking lots of hospitals to prove they are empty.

Needless to say, the conspiracy is false. If some hospitals appear less busy, it is likely because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other medical institutions have advised hospitals to postpone medical procedures that are not urgent.

Canadian researchers have investigated how the hashtag spread on social media, collecting over 100,000 public #FilmYourHospital tweets from March 28, right after the epicenter of the pandemic moved from Europe to the United States, with the North American country becoming the global leader in a number of new cases.

“Our analysis suggests that while the #FilmYourHospital campaign on Twitter is full of misleading and false COVID-19 claims, most of the active and influential accounts behind it don’t appear to be automated,” the researchers wrote in a post on The Conversation about their work. “However, we did find signs of ad hoc co-ordination among conservative internet personalities and far-right groups attempting to take a baseless conspiracy theory and turn it into a weapon against their political opponents.”

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While most of the content came from small accounts, the team found that these were spread by a few conservative politicians and far-right political activists with tens of thousands of followers. While the Trump administration's reponse to the pandemic was being discussed online, some pro-Trump accounts were promoting this conspiracy before it got a second wave of interest from international accounts.

The team has created a website called COVID-19 Misinformation Portal with fact-checked resources that dispel false and misleading claims about the virus and the pandemic.