CELEBRITIES like Woody Harrelson have a lot to answer for when it comes to spreading “fake news” about coronavirus.
Woody joins rappers Wiz Khalifa and MIA as “super-spreaders” of conspiracy theories about the pandemic which has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths globally, according to experts.
Research from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia found that a simple retweet or Instagram post from a celebrity can spread the misinformation about the virus much more widely.
“These are the super-spreaders. These are the people who are really making something go viral,” said Axel Bruns, a professor with the school’s Technology’s Digital Media Research Centre.
The Zombieland star shared a now deleted video to his 2mill followers, labelled “Meanwhile the Chinese are bringing 5g antennas down”.
His followers were quick to point out that the footage was from an old documentary filmed during protests in Hong Kong and that people were actually pulling down facial recognition cameras.
Others slammed him for his irresponsible message: “Nooooooo Woody, not you! Spreading things like this is dangerous,” said follower lise.
The QUT research found misinformation about coronavirus spiked heavily straight after a celebrity posted about it.
Axel said: “It’s one thing to post this from a conspiracy account that’s got a few hundred followers, but once you get major celebrities with literally millions of followers on Twitter or Facebook talking about this, even just dismissively, obviously it reaches a much, much larger audience.”
In fact, fake news about 5G towers has the most shares after Woody and Wiz – who shared his theories on Facebook – posted about it.
Another QUT research Timothy Graham told the Brisbane Times: “Now the public is genuinely confused, and genuinely divided. They’re pointing fingers at China … and at each other.
“This is payday for disinformers. This is the best thing that could happen to them and the worst thing that could happen for democracy.”
The latest findings follow research from Oxford’s Reuters Institute warned mainstream news media struggled to complete with the vast reach of online stars.
Politicians, celebrities and influencers were responsible for producing or spreading 20% of fake coronavirus claims online.
And these posts were responsible for more than two-thirds of total social media engagement.
Singer MIA posted a series of tweets urged the Government to “turn off” 5G until after the pandemic and linked coronavirus symptoms to 5G towers.
The theory originated last month after a video filmed at a US health conference claimed Africa was not as affected by the disease because it is “not a 5G region”.
But the World Health Organisation debunked the bonkers theory when they confirmed there were thousands of Covid-19 cases in Africa.
Coronavirus has killed more than 200,000 people around the world in a matter of months, with more than 53,000 of those in the US alone.
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