This article may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. (January 2022)
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COVID-19 misinformation refers to misinformation and conspiracy theories about the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic and the origin, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease COVID-19, which is caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. False information, including intentional disinformation, has been spread through social media, text messaging, and mass media. False information has been propagated by celebrities, politicians, and other prominent public figures. Multiple countries have passed laws against "fake news", and thousands of people have been arrested for spreading COVID-19 misinformation. The spread of COVID-19 misinformation by governments has also been significant.
Commercial scams have claimed to offer at-home tests, supposed preventives, and "miracle" cures. Several religious groups have claimed their faith will protect them from the virus. Without evidence, some people have claimed the virus is a bioweapon accidentally or deliberately leaked from a laboratory, a population control scheme, the result of a spy operation, or the side effect of 5G upgrades to cellular networks.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared an "infodemic" of incorrect information about the virus that poses risks to global health. While belief in conspiracy theories is not a new phenomenon, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this can lead to adverse health effects. Cognitive biases, such as jumping to conclusions and confirmation bias, may be linked to the occurrence of conspiracy beliefs. In addition to health effects, harms resulting from the spread of misinformation and endorsement of conspiracy theories include increasing distrust of news organizations and medical authorities as well as divisiveness and political fragmentation.