Bill Gates supposedly bought the WHO and the coronavirus is in reality a Chinese bio-weapon. The “infodemic” of misinformation surrounding the coronavirus is giving rise to a multitude of outrageous false reports - with far-reaching consequences, as a representative global study, conducted by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, shows.
Berlin, 16 July 2020
For weeks, Brussels has been warning against a "massive infodemic" and discussing measures to mitigate the repercussions of targeted false reports. The speed and global reach of disinformation is unprecedented while its effects persist tenaciously. Not only in autocratic regimes, but also in democratic states.
A representative global survey now confirms these fears.
On behalf of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, the opinion and market research institute Kantar has interviewed around 7300 people of all age groups on their use of the media and false reports during the Corona epidemic. Interviews were conducted in Germany, the U.S, India, Mexico, Jordan, South Africa and the Philippines.
Lack of media literacy and distrust in mainstream media
While the vast majority of respondents state that they are "very well" and "rather well” informed about the corona pandemic, this subjective assessment conflicts with a number of other results of the study.
54 percent of those interviewed find it difficult to distinguish between news and deliberate false reports. 74 percent of the respondents are concerned about the increase of deliberate false reports. In Germany only about 53% are worried about the increase of disinformation, making Germans are the least worried among those interviewed.
34 percent of those interviewed in Germany agree with the statement that the media would conceal facts about the coronavirus due to pressure from their respective governments. In the U.S, Mexico and South Africa more than half of all respondents support this statement.
The main source of information is still television (77%), followed by social media (68%), newspapers or magazines on the Internet (55%) and other sources on the Internet (46%). Radio (34%) or print media (25%) are used to a significantly lesser extent. Younger people worldwide, but especially in Germany, obtain their information primarily on the Internet.
A consequence of deliberately influencing the news in the times of Covid-19: the credibility of politicians and doctors decreases. A cross-national trend: three-quarters of all respondents say that deliberate false reports about Corona undermine the competence of these professional groups. In South Africa, as many as 84 percent of the respondents agree with this statement, in Germany around 70 percent.
Corona as a weapon
The subjective feeling about being well informed about the corona epidemic is once more challenged when asked about alleged facts about the virus. The answers regarding the origin of the virus are worrying. Not only because of its health consequences, but also because of the wild theories surrounding it.
A quarter of all German respondents say that the coronavirus was bred in a Chinese laboratory. In India, 79 percent of people are convinced of this theory. And it gets even more bizarre: 38% of those interviewed worldwide (and among those 72% in India and 52% in the Philippines, yet "only" 13% in Germany) believe that the coronavirus is a Chinese bioweapon.
The Enemy: Bill Gates
Even though the countries in which the survey was conducted are completely different, there seems to be a common enemy across many media channels: Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
50 percent of respondents worldwide think that Gates is calling for compulsory vaccination of all people; 39 percent say he has more power in their country than their respective government; 31 percent believe Gates wants to implant microchips in people to fight the virus; 20 percent are of the opinion that Gates has bought the World Health Organization (WHO). Especially respondents in Jordan and South Africa agree with these conspiracy theories; in Germany "only" a quarter of respondents agree with the first two statements, while 16% believe that the theory about the microchips is true and 12% agree with the statement about the WHO.
5G and Corona
The myth, first spread in the UK, Cyprus and the Netherlands, that there is a link between the expansion of the 5G Internet network and the corona epidemic has already led to more than 60 arson attacks on mobile phone masts in the UK alone. In Germany, 21 percent of the age group 18 to 34-year-olds believe in a connection between 5G and the virus. In Jordan, the figure is as high as 30 percent. The fact that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever to support the thesis appears to be irrelevant.
“The study shows that the feeling of being well informed is not yet fundamentally shaken. The survey reveals a substantial crisis of confidence in the media. Democracy cannot afford a credibility crisis of the media", said Prof. Karl-Heinz Paqué, Chairman of the Board of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.
Paqué is shocked by how Bill Gates is framed as the enemy: "Bill Gates, of all people, who does a lot of good things for public health, is mutating into a global enemy. This “disinformation mania” must be fought jointly by all democratic forces," demands Paqué.
You can download the entire survey results here.
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