Falsehoods about a new strain of the coronavirus spreading from China vary widely, from Facebook posts that take a patent out of context to conspiracy theories about Bill Gates. Many of the claims were shared by Facebook and Twitter users, and others were propagated on the fringe internet and notorious conspiracy websites. One falsehood was even shared by a 2020 U.S. Senate candidate.
The virus, known as the Wuhan coronavirus because of the central China city where it originated, has infected more than 900 people worldwide, and China has restricted travel within the country amid a rising death toll.
Misinformation about the coronavirus has particularly taken root in Facebook groups for anti-vaccine advocates and believers in QAnon, a broad, right-wing conspiracy theory.
Many of the posts about coronavirus were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed….