First Draft teams in London, New York and Sydney, as well as across Europe and India, are monitoring social media and closed messaging apps. For more in-depth information about the content highlighted here, you can apply to join our CrossCheck community.
Misleading claims about the FDA-approved at-home Covid-19 test
The FDA yesterday granted emergency authorization for an at-home Covid-19 test, sparking misleading claims in some online spaces. The swab test, made by Australian company Ellume, uses a “Bluetooth connected analyzer” that provides results in as little as 20 minutes. Although these types of antigen tests have a higher rate of false results than PCR tests, misleading claims about false positives were fueled by two viral videos that show a glass of Coca-Cola and a tub of applesauce turning up such a result. The videos attracted at least 702,000 views and 70,700 views, respectively, on Twitter alone.
The German journalism nonprofit Correctiv looked into the Coca-Cola test and concluded that it was carried out incorrectly, adding that rapid antigen tests are designed exclusively for humans. The FDA had previously warned of potential for false positive results due to incorrect handling. Nevertheless, the FDA approval has resurfaced conspiracy theories of a “Testing Industrial Complex” in the US. One post by prominent anti-lockdown activist Jordan Schachtel on the subject attracted at least 3,600 interactions, including nearly 1,000 retweets. — Stevie Zhang
London enters “Tier 3” lockdown measures
As some regions of southern England, including London, enter “Tier 3” measures — the highest level of lockdown restrictions — misinformation is spreading online. One anti-lockdown Twitter user attracted more than 2,400 retweets in a post falsely claiming that death data from funeral homes and coroners shows there is “no pandemic.” The account also posted a screenshot purportedly showing a lower number of overall deaths for England and Wales in 2020 compared with previous years. While the screenshot appears to be based on 2017-2019 figures from the Office for National Statistics, the UK’s statistical body, this year’s data indicates that the age-standardized mortality rate in England has been “statistically significantly higher” than in all years between 2009 and 2019. Another Twitter user, who shares anti-immigration content, made similarly false claims about death rates, writing: “I’ve spoken to various people who work at different crematoriums. They’ve not noticed an increase in deaths.”
A post from Toby Young’s blog Lockdown Sceptics has also touched on Covid-19 deaths. The blog cited a Daily Mail op-ed stating that daily Covid-19 deaths in London are lower now than they were during the first wave in April. Although Covid-19 deaths in London are indeed lower, they have risen since late September. — Lydia Morrish