Another day, another backlash to an influential person seemingly fanning the flames of the current 5G coronavirus conspiracy.
For the past few weeks, the likes of Keri Hilson, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Lee Ryan, Calum Best, M.I.A. and Made In Chelsea’s Lucy Watson have been accused of fuelling the conspiracy theories to varying extents.
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Despite FullFact stating there is ‘no evidence that 5G WiFi networks are linked to the new coronavirus,’ it seems to be a hot topic among stars.
Recently Zombieland star Woody was slammed after he shared footage labelled ‘Meanwhile the Chinese are bringing 5g antennas down’.
It was soon brought to his attention the footage was from an old documentary filmed in Hong Kong and that protesters were actually pulling down facial recognition cameras.
However, the video was already out there, shared to his 2million followers.
Keri wrote in a now-deleted message: ‘We need more tests!!! How do you Prove its not bad for us? 5G def ain’t the antivirus protection i need rn. Toilet roll seems to be the thing.’
While we are hardly blaming celebrities for directly inciting people to rip down these towers based on their words and their words only, expert analysis found that ‘prominent public figures continue to play an outsized role in spreading misinformation about Covid-19’.
Research from Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has found that posts from celebrities and other prominent public figures made up just 20% of coronavirus misinformation posts on social media. But they accounted for almost 70% of actual engagement due to the staggeringly-large followings these stars have.
The report said: ‘Public figures continue to play an outsised role in spreading misinformation about COVID-19.
‘While the majority of misinformation on social media came from ordinary people, most of these posts seemed to generate far less engagement.’
When it comes to celebrities, while we’re free to worship them as gods in most (harmless) circumstances, we need to take stock before believing everything they say as gospel.
Organisational psychologist Karen Kwong explains to Metro.co.uk there is a heightened danger when stars wade into the conspiracy world due to their prolific following.
‘People, rightly or wrongly, will put more stead in the word of a celebrity, irrespective of their knowledge or expertise, over that of an expert,’ she says.
‘For the most part those aspects are pretty harmless. However, few to none of the celebrities we know out there are actual scientists or experts in managing crises. So for them to spout conspiracy theories, their influence can be exceedingly perilous to us as individuals, to our communities and to our key workers who are giving their everything, including their lives, to help save others.’
Aside from their actual influence of changing minds, they can also reach greater numbers of people which can be an issue.
For the ‘normal’ person who only has a few thousand followers max, the message, no matter what it is, isn’t going to travel all that far.
With celebrities, the spreading of such information ‘isn’t linear but is multifold’ (especially if another celebrity backs the original claim and retweets/reposts).
Kwong continues: ‘Much as most celebrities don’t want to admit it, they are human. They are not experts in everything, but perhaps their own specific field (for some, this is not a lot…) and they need to remember that. And so do followers.
‘Yes, they can have opinions on stuff outside of their day jobs but the reality is that none actually have any depth of knowledge or expertise on something like the virus.’
She adds: ‘If influencers and celebrities want to help, they should turn their focus and attention on raising awareness for causes that help in these situations such as fundraisers for PPE or for care workers or the NHS.
‘As an aside, it is much better for the population if we focus on our own critical thinking and advice of experts as opposed to the musings and often-uninformed opinions of celebrities.’
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