• Millions of tweets have spread dangerous conspiracy theories about the coronavirus, an unpublished State Department report said, according to The Washington Post.
  • Many posts have offered baseless and untrue allegations about the outbreak’s origins, speculating that it was created as a bioweapon or manufactured by the CIA or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Some of the hoaxes have appear to have been propelled by fake accounts, the report said.
  • Major social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter began taking action weeks ago to limit the spread of conspiracy theories.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

An unpublished State Department report found that roughly 2 million tweets spread dangerous and untrue conspiracy theories about the coronavirus while the outbreak began to spread beyond China, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

The State Department report flagged a number of wildly inaccurate myths, such as theories positing that the coronavirus was created as a bioweapon or was made by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to The Post.

Some of those conspiracy theories appeared to be propelled by a number of fake accounts, the report said.

The top tweets also revealed a variety of racist and inaccurate beliefs, including one particularly popular article that falsely connected the outbreak with “people eating bat soup,” The Post reported.

But one of the report’s more heartening discoveries was that some of the most shared links included official and science-based information, such as a tool from Johns Hopkins University tracking the spread of the coronavirus. 

The unpublished report was created by the Global Engagement Center, a State Department program geared toward fighting foreign propaganda and disinformation. It examined posts published between January 20 and February 10 in countries outside the US.

Twitter representatives told The Post the company was working with federal officials on coronavirus-related issues, but did not comment on the unpublished State Department report.

The report comes just days after US officials told Agence France-Presse that a Russian disinformation campaign spread blatantly false theories about the coronavirus, including that it was created to “wage economic war on China” and that it was a bioweapon made by the CIA.

The State Department report, according to The Post, does not mention Russian efforts to spread misinformation.

Major social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter began taking action weeks ago to limit the spread of conspiracy theories.

Facebook announced in late January it would limit the reach of false and misleading posts and would alert users who are sharing information that has been fact-checked to be false or misleading, Business Insider’s Bryan Pietsch reported.

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