Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Report: Media That Promoted COVID Misinformation Got Relief Aid

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, public health officials have warned about the dangers of a parallel “infodemic” — the spread of conspiracy theories, misinformation and disinformation about the virus, reports Yahoo! News.

Some of that misinformation, it seems, has been spread by media outlets that have benefited from the federal government’s COVID-19 relief program.

According to a joint analysis conducted by the counter-disinformation consulting firm Alethea Group and the nonprofit Global Disinformation Index, at least five companies behind some of the internet’s top sources of false, misleading or conspiratorial information related to COVID-19, including the Epoch Times, Newsmax and the Federalist, received sizable loans from the federal government as part of the Paycheck Protection Program.

One of the largest loans was approved for the conservative multimedia company Newsmax Media, which received between $2 million and $5 million in federal funds. In recent weeks, Newsmax’s website and television network have emerged as a megaphone for President Trump’s false allegations of voter fraud. But even before the election, Newsmax had been promoting coronavirus conspiracy theories, such as the unfounded, yet widely circulated, claim that COVID-19 was engineered in a lab in Wuhan, China, and is now a “bio-weapon.”

In a statement to Yahoo News, a spokesperson for Newsmax said the outlet “denies it published false or misleading information about the Coronavirus” and that “Newsmax has always encouraged our readers to follow all CDC and general health advice and guidelines when dealing with the virus.”

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