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The epidemiology of misinformation

The disturbing story of how the web is weaving weird connections between hippies, Nazis, Russian agents and the rest of us to spread lies about Covid-19

By Philip Ball  

After Covid-19 was first identified in early January, the tools and techniques of science and medicine were engaged with unprecedented urgency to tackle the biology of the pathogenic coronavirus, the epidemiology of its spread, and possibilities for potential treatments and eventual cure. But in parallel with this energetic search for reliable yet elusive facts and remedies, we’ve also seen the lightning spread of Covid-19-related falsehoods—a phenomenon the WHO has called the coronavirus “infodemic.”

There has been a boom in conspiracy theories—the idea, for example, that the…

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