The Daily Dose: Deplatforming and fact-checking QAnon won’t solve anything at this point

If you’ve spent any amount of time on political social media, you’ve probably run across QAnon. It’s a decentralized, constantly expanding conspiracy theory system that shares affities with the alt-right, alternative reality, anti-science segment of the English speaking world. It took root on message boards like Reddit and 4chan then expanded on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and now TikTok. An article in the MIT Technology Review suggests that it’s too late to simply fact check or deplatform the phenomenon. That ship has sailed a long time ago. “Twitter proficiency is only one small part of why QAnon wields influence, and just one example of how platforms amplify fringe beliefs and harmful activity. To actually stop QAnon, experts say, would take a lot more work and coordination. That is, if it’s even possible.” One expert suggests that QAnon followers should be viewed as members of a cult built around common fear and should adopt an admittedly complicated deprogramming approach.

Since late January, the Trump Administration and members of Congress have suggested that SARS-COV-2 originated in a Chinese lab in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. According to them, the virus was either engineered there or, at least, escaped from the lab. Shi Zhengli, the researcher at the center of those accusations has finally addressed the claims. Per Science, “Now, Shi has broken her silence about the details of her work. On 15 July, she emailed Science answers to a series of written questions about the virus’ origin and the research at her institute. In them, Shi hit back at speculation that the virus leaked from WIV. She and her colleagues discovered the virus in late 2019, she says, in samples from patients who had a pneumonia of unknown origin. ‘Before that, we had never been in contact with or studied this virus, nor did we know of its existence,’ Shi wrote.” She went on to suggest that Donald Trump owes China an apology. All we have to say is good luck with that. It ain’t gonna happen with the current administration.

Advances in genetics continues to shake up our understanding of disease and the world, in general. In the most recent examples, the timelines of diseases like smallpox and tuberculosis have been significantly revised. Per Nature, “Researchers have been able to fish out fragments of pathogen DNA from remains since the 1990s. And in the past decade, next-generation DNA sequencers that can read myriad short snippets — useful for sequencing DNA damaged after hundreds or thousands of years — have helped researchers reconstruct entire genomes of ancient pathogens. In 2011, scientists published the first such genome7, of Y. pestis, gathered from four skeletons in a London graveyard where thousands of Black Death victims were buried in the fourteenth century.” The new understandings have also led to new revelations about ancient populations such as the Vikings.

There’s encouraging news on the COVID-19 front. The vaccine candidate developed by the U.S. National Institute of Health and Moderna has taken a significant step forward. According to the Associated Press, “The world’s biggest COVID-19 vaccine study got underway Monday with the first of 30,000 planned volunteers helping to test shots created by the U.S. government — one of several candidates in the final stretch of the global vaccine race… The needed proof: Volunteers won’t know if they’re getting the real shot or a dummy version. After two doses, scientists will closely track which group experiences more infections as they go about their daily routines, especially in areas where the virus still is spreading unchecked.” It’s make or break at this point. Disappointing results would mean a delay of months (at best) or even years. With all of the competition out there, anything other than positive findings would take it out of the advantages of being the first-runner. It’s not the end, however.

Let’s be careful out there.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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