By Gerrit De Vynck, Riley Griffin, and Alyza Sebenius
The new coronavirus roiling financial markets and prompting travel bans is taking on a life of its own on the internet, once again putting U.S.-based social media companies on the defensive about their efforts to curb the spread of false or dangerous information.
Researchers and journalists have documented a growing number of cases of misinformation about the virus, ranging from racist explanations for the disease’s origin to false claims about miracle cures. Conspiracy theorists, trolls and cynics hoping to use the panic to boost traffic to their own accounts have all contributed to the cloud of bad information.
“It’s the perfect intersection of fear, racism and distrust of the government and Big Pharma,” said Maarten Schenk, co-founder of the fact-checking site Lead Stories. “People don’t trust the official narrative.”
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