We are currently checking out the most popular dubious claims of the week and are gathering the work of BBC journalists investigating coronavirus misinformation.
The White House does not sell commemorative coins for coronavirus
A website called the White House Gift Shop angered by selling coins “commemorating” the Covid-19 epidemic for $ 100 (£ 80) each.
US senator Bernie Sanders was one of those furious with the coins.
But the White House gift shop is a private online store with no direct connection to the White House or the Trump administration.
Its own website says it “operates independently from the United States government.”
The pieces do exist, however, and are sold by the store. They show a coronavirus germ superimposed on a world map, with slogans such as “Together we fought the invisible enemy” and “Everyday heroes have adapted.” The site indicates that the profits will be donated to hospitals.
Established by President Harry S Truman in 1946, the gift shop was transferred to a private company years ago, which now owns the trademark of “White House Gift Shop”.
The site had previously attracted media attention in 2018 when it sold coins commemorating the Donald Trump summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
California doctors’ misleading lock-in statistics
A video in which two American doctors plead for the end of the locking measures caused controversy.
The video of a press conference, broadcast on a local television channel in California, has been viewed millions of times on YouTube and Facebook. It was tweeted by Elon Musk, who has 33 million followers and is increasingly vocal in his opposition to the closure measures.
In the video, Dr. Daniel Erickson and Dr. Artin Messihi argue for an end to the lockdown based on the data they collected from their private clinics. They draw sweeping conclusions from their unrepresentative sample and claim that the flu is similar in terms of prevalence and death rate.
It is very difficult to determine the proportion of people who die after catching a coronavirus, as no country has yet performed random tests on a scale that could help us understand how many people have it.
You certainly can’t do it from the limited data you get from people who have been tested in a few clinics.
The best current estimates are that the Covid-19 mortality rate is just under 1% and for influenza it is 0.1%. These are estimates that would require large-scale random testing to verify.
On Monday, as the video garnered more views, two professional medical associations, the American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, released a joint statement condemning doctors’ “reckless and untested thoughts”.
Medical associations said the findings in the doctors’ video were inconsistent with current science and epidemiology regarding Covid-19, adding, “It appears that these two people are releasing biased, non-peer-reviewed data to make advance their personal financial interests without regard for public health. “
YouTube deleted the full video because it broke its rules which were tightened last week.
Exposed robot network
A disinformation campaign against a Chinese businessman who criticized the Chinese government’s response to the coronavirus epidemic was discovered.
The campaign, conducted via Twitter and Facebook, uses a network of fake accounts, or bots, to target Guo Wengui, a Chinese businessman exiled to the United States.
BBC open source investigator Benjamin Strick has identified bogus accounts that have posted images and text criticizing Mr. Guo.
A large network of bots would then retweet and comment on the articles to give them trending status using the #GuoWengui tags, and its name written in Chinese.
The robots used fake profile photos and many of them were created on the same day, apparently for the sole purpose of amplifying the campaign.
Between April 27 and 29, more than 200 accounts were created on Twitter that shared only the critical media of Mr. Guo and his opinions on China’s response to the coronavirus in Wuhan and the number of deaths in Wuhan.
This is not the first time that a campaign has been launched against Mr. Guo. He has been the target of disinformation campaigns linked to China since 2017, identified in research by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
The discovery of this recent campaign also exposed a vast network of multilingual accounts masquerading as Russian, with fake profile photos. The accounts appeared to be automated to promote a pro-Chinese government program and other matters.
Twitter has now suspended many accounts.
Quote of a false Nobel Prize
A viral message attributed to Japanese Nobel laureate Tasuku Honjo says he believes the new coronavirus was “made” in a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
The messages have been shared thousands of times on social media in many languages and most recently by renowned British businessman Lord Sugar.
We believe the first post was in India, then spread to a Nigerian page where it went viral.
But Professor Honjo, the 2018 Nobel Prize winner in physiology or medicine, made no such comment.
In a statement posted on the Kyoto University website, he said he was “very saddened” that his name was used to spread “false accusations and misinformation”.
Scientists say genome sequencing shows that the virus comes from animals and is not of human origin.
Additional reporting by Alistair Coleman, Olga Robinson, Shayan Sardarizadeh, Wanyuan Song, Marianna Spring and Benjamin Strick.
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