Organized harassment campaigns, lies and urban legends targeting doctors are a real-life symptom of what the World Health Organization dubbed the “infodemic” as the coronavirus started to spread throughout the world earlier this year.
Halazun has since stopped engaging with the trolls on Facebook, some of whom claimed that “the hospitals are empty” and that the virus was part of a plot to vaccinate or microchip U.S. citizens — just two of the many conspiracy theories that have swirled around the coronavirus.
But he was still left with big questions: How can people believe this stuff? And do they understand the algorithms and opportunistic extremists that led them to believe it?
“It scares me more than anything that there are people who are basically controlled — and in the same way they feel they’re fighting against that control,” he said. “They go to YouTube, where they’re really being controlled, and they don’t realize it. That’s what’s scary.”