The coronavirus pandemic brings with it a lot of information — and misinformation. It can be hard to know what to believe and what to dismiss as conspiracy theories. Take, for instance, a story about coronavirus patients in China being cremated alive.
A video circulated on the internet in February showing a woman who claims she saw a living patient being put into a body bag and sent off for cremation. Fact-checking site Politifact looked into the story. Read on to find out what they said.
Are Coronavirus Patients Being Cremated Alive In China?
The video was posted by a Facebook page called China Declassified. A woman in a car speaks Chinese, and reportedly says she saw a coronavirus patient being put into a bag while still alive.
According to Politifact, this post was flagged by Facebook as part of its efforts to keep misinformation off people’s feeds. Although the site acknowledges that China had ordered patients who die from the virus to be quickly cremated, it says there is no evidence of people being cremated alive.
The site also points out that the video was originally uploaded to YouTube by exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, who is a member of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and known for criticizing Chinese leaders. His site G News also employs Steve Bannon of Breitbart News, who has posted other misinformation about coronavirus.
Politifact points out that the video in question also offers no firsthand proof. The site reached out to G News for the source of the video, but received no response. Therefore, they rate this story False. According to Buzzfeed, G News previously posted other false stories about the coronavirus.
Misinformation About The Virus Spreads Online
It’s no surprise that misinformation is spreading across social media in the midst of the current crisis. Crisis informatics researcher Kate Starbird told Science magazine this is a “natural response” during a disaster.
During times of uncertainty and anxiety, Starbird says “people try to come together to try to make sense of what’s going on, to participate in what we call collective sensemaking.” This includes rumors. She added, “Sometimes rumors turn out to be false, but rumors can also turn out to be true.”
Social media and other platforms have been working to combat the spread of falsehoods. WhatsApp, for instance, is limiting how many times a forwarded message on the app can be shared simultaneously. The company said there has been “a significant increase” in forwarding recently.
According to CNN, WhatsApp has also donated to fact checking organizations and created chat bots to answer people’s coronavirus questions, with the help of health organizations. The company is also apparently developing a feature that would allow users to quickly check the content of a message online.