Reality Check

Coronavirus: Bogus Jeff Bezos message and other misleading stories unpicked

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BBC teams are fact-checking and verifying some of the most popular fake and misleading coronavirus stories on social media. Jack Goodman brings together what's been debunked this week by BBC Monitoring, Trending and Reality Check.

Jeff Bezos did not say this

You might remember a "beautiful message" about coronavirus that Bill Gates didn't actually write. Here's another fake quote attributed to a billionaire. This time a statement that Jeff Bezos didn't make about Bill Gates.

Amazon confirmed the quote is fake.

Identical posts falsely claimed that the Amazon founder Mr Bezos had sent a strong message to Africans about Covid-19 and that Bill Gates was looking to destabilise Africa. Africans were to avoid wearing certain face masks because they contained toxic substances, it adds.

The same bogus post in French has been copied and pasted by hundreds of accounts. The original one appears to be from an account in DR Congo set up in January and has been shared more than 30,000 times.

False 5G posts that won't go away

Scientists have called rumours that there is a link between 5G technology and coronavirus "complete rubbish" and a biological impossibility.

However, there are still false claims circulating on Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok.

A post shared thousands of times links new technology to various outbreaks of diseases - claiming 1G coincided with the influenza outbreak in 1979, 2G with an outbreak of cholera and links 5G to Covid-19. This is false - there is no evidence whatsoever that these events are related.

Photographs of posters on lampposts claim there was never a Covid-19 and that 5G is the "real cause" of the deaths. Again, this claim is false.

Claims that Britain has pulled out of a 5G contract with Chinese internet company Huawei after testing kits were contaminated with coronavirus have been shared thousands of times on Facebook and Twitter in English, Arabic, Portuguese and French. However, Britain's deal with Huawei is still in place. And there's no evidence testing kits have been contaminated with coronavirus.

Then there's the conspiracy theory linking coronavirus and 5G technology to the new £20 note.

Numerous social media posts point to what appears to be a representation of the virus above what they say is a 5G telecom tower on the reverse of the note.

However, as the Bank of England pointed out when the design was revealed, the "coronavirus" is actually the Rotunda at the Tate Britain art gallery, while the "phone tower" is Margate Lighthouse.

Ambulance voice note

A voice note you may have heard of a woman who claims she works for "Secas" - the South East Coast Ambulance Service and is sharing inside information that "comes from Public Health England" is not accurate.

"This is fake news, and we would urge people to ignore the message and not share it further," says Viv Bennett, chief nurse at Public Health England (PHE).

In the note the woman suggests further restrictions on movement are imminent and that a huge proportion of the people dying of coronavirus are healthy and young.

Secas said that "the alarmist information being shared in the message is not correct".

Dozens of people sent the note to BBC reporters, and Secas and PHE fielded enquiries, indicating that the message went viral on WhatsApp's network.

Did Nasa hear India clap?

A popular WhatsApp message claims that when Indians took part in collective applause to celebrate the nation's emergency services in March, it caused such an racket that Nasa satellites detected "cosmic level sound waves" from it, which made coronavirus "retreat".

Sounds far-fetched? Well, yes.

The message appeared two weeks ago but we know people are still sharing it despite an official denial from the Indian government.

Posts about an American scientist fact-checked

Inaccurate claims that a Harvard professor has just been arrested for creating the coronavirus emerged this week and went viral after being reported in multiple languages and shared hundreds of thousands of times.

The posts say that Charles Lieber has just been arrested in the United States and that he manufactured coronavirus and sold it to China.

Mr Lieber was charged in January this year for lying about connections to China.

But not for manufacturing or selling the new coronavirus to China - none of the charges are related to Covid-19.

Many of the posts included the same local US news clip from January.

It was posted on a Spanish Facebook page for "natural recipes" and shared more than 250,000 times.

Genome sequencing of this coronavirus suggests it jumped from animals to humans and was not man-made.

Gargling salt water won't prevent infection

A video in Spanish that has more than seven million views recommends gargling salt water to prevent Covid-19 infection.

The presenter says that salt water is the best common ingredient to protect against coronavirus.

Some people gargle salt to relieve symptoms of a dry sore throat, says the WHO, but there's no evidence it has any effect on Covid-19.

Additional reporting by Marianna Spring, Olga Robinson, Shruti Menon, Peter Mwai and Alistair Coleman.

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