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Social Networks Are Exporting Disinformation About Covid Vaccines

Content that is blocked or flagged in the U.S. often continues to circulate in other languages.
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Illustration: Arne Bellstorf for Bloomberg Businessweek
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One of the earliest people to get Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine was a nurse in Tennessee, who fainted after getting the shot on live television in December. The incident sparked rumors that she had died and that the vaccine was a tool of genocide. Five months later the nurse, who is not dead, continues to be bombarded by messages from strangers on social media. They send condolences to her family or demand details about the incident. Oddly, they often do so in German, Italian, or Portuguese.

The international fixation on this case follows what is becoming a common pattern. U.S.-based social media users begin spreading misleading or false information, which then moves to other countries, according to researchers studying the rumors. The U.S. may not yet have figured out an efficient way to distribute shots to other countries, but it has become a major exporter of misinformation.