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Debunked: The viral video Plandemic makes a series of false claims about Covid-19

The 26-minute video was viewed millions of times before social media giants took it down.

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MISINFORMATION ON SOCIAL media is nothing new, but false information has proliferated since the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

At TheJournal.ie, we’ve been fact-checking dubious claims surrounding the pandemic for the past two months – from the army on red alert in March to lists of when businesses could re-open in April. 

A video viewed tens of millions of times this month – that has since been removed by YouTube and Facebook – is the latest piece of misinformation to be shared widely. 

Plandemic is a slickly-produced, 26-minute video promoting a range of falsehoods and conspiracy theories about Covid-19. It purports to be a preview of a longer film set to be released this summer. 

As you can surmise from the title, one of the claims within it is that the virus was man-made but there are several other wild claims within the piece. It also includes attacks on, among others, Dr Anthony Fauci, the senior expert on the White House’s coronavirus task force.

While social media giants are still taking down new links to the video, there’s a good chance it can still find its way into one of your WhatsApp groups or into your email inbox. 

Here’s what you need to know about Plandemic, and why many of its claims are false.

Protagonist

The video is made by California-based production company Elevate, which has in the past produced a number of conspiracy videos and claims to offer an alternative to the “official” narrative around coronavirus. 

It takes for the form of an interview with a virologist named Judy Mikovits. The film describes her as “one of the most accomplished scientists of her generation”. 

However, Mikovits work has been discredited, notably on a 2009 paper published in the distinguished journal Science. It suggested an association between a newly-discovered retrovirus and the condition known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. 

Nobody, however, was able to replicate the results claimed in the study. In 2011, Science retracted the paper, citing “poor quality control” and the fact it had “lost confidence” in the report and the “validity of its conclusions”.

Mikovits was later fired from her job and was subsequently arrested for allegedly taking lab notebooks, a computer and other material from her employers at the Whittemore Peterson Institute. However, charges were dropped and she was released after a number of days.

As pointed out by US fact-checkers Snopes, Mikovits was later lionised by the medical conspiracy community as she claimed that she had in fact discovered a deadly virus that was delivered through vaccines. She hadn’t. These claims aren’t supported by numerous scientific studies and have no basis.

Plandemic claims

These anti-vaccine claims are repeated in Plandemic. Mikovits claims that vaccines are a “money-making enterprise that causes medical harm”.

She makes numerous claims which are demonstrably false in the 26-minute video, so let’s break down a few of them here:

  • “It’s very clear this virus was manipulated”

Mikovits says that while she wouldn’t use the word “created”, it is clear the virus was “manipulated” in a laboratory setting.

“This family of viruses was manipulated and studied in a laboratory where the animals were taken into the laboratory, and this is what was released, whether deliberate or not.”

The scientific consensus on Covid-19 is that it was not made or developed in a laboratory.

A paper published in the journal Nature in March said: “However, since we observed all notable Sars-Cov-2 features, in related coronaviruses in nature, we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.”

The World Health Organization has also said there is no evidence suggesting it originated in a laboratory

  • Hydroxychloroquine is “effective against these families of viruses”

In common with US President Donald Trump, Mikovits also touts the effectiveness of an anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine in Plandemic. 

There is no scientific evidence to suggest it does, as of yet. Although studies are ongoing into its effectiveness, the likes of Dr Fauci in the US have advised against making it a standard in treatment for Covid-19.

“There have been cases that show there may be an effect and there are others to show there’s no effect,” he said in March.

  • Wearing the mask literally activates your own virus. You’re getting sick from your own reactivated coronavirus expressions.

This is one of the wilder claims in the video. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest wearing a mask “activates” Covid-19 and makes you sick.

Some jurisdictions, such as Germany, are advising those who use public transport to wear a mask. For those who have the virus, wearing a mask can help prevent the spread to others. 

As the World Health Organization points out, masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

‘Kill millions’

Although she later denies being anti-vaccine in Plandemic, it’s put to Mikovits that if we “activate mandatory vaccines globally” then people stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars if they own that vaccine.

She replies: “And they’ll kill millions, as they already have with their vaccines. There is no vaccine currently on the schedule for any RNA virus that works.”

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In fact, there are plenty of such vaccines that work – and there is evidence to suggest that vaccines for the likes of influenza, measles, mumps, yellow fever and Ebola have saved lives. 

trump-coronavirus-task-force-press-briefing-at-the-white-house Dr Anthony Fauci is one of those targeted in the video. Source: Kevin Dietsch/PA Images

Numerous American publications have fact-checked the other claims by Mikovits, such as claiming Dr Anthony Fauci was responsible for the death of millions during the AIDS crisis, her claims she was a “fugitive from justice” and that getting the flu vaccine increases your chances of getting Covid-19.

Despite the dubious nature of many of the claims, the video went viral across social media.

According to analysis tool CrowdTangle, there have been over 1.6 million interactions with Facebook posts referencing Plandemic since the beginning of this month – and this doesn’t count the posts that Facebook has deleted. 

As reported by The Verge, Facebook first demoted the video before removing it meaning it appears less in newsfeeds and spreads less but still remains available. The video remained on YouTube for two days and generated over seven million views before it was removed. 

Despite it now being widely discredited, Mikovits’ popularity has also risen with her Twitter following increasing sharply since the emergence of the video earlier this month. 

It is unclear when the longer version of Plandemic will appear online.

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There is a lot of false news and scaremongering being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not. 

STOP, THINK AND CHECK 

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie. 

About the author:

Sean Murray

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