How a tech NGO got sucked into a COVID-19 conspiracy theory

Joining the (quantum) dots on a public health conspiracy theory.

by Ben Parker

An undirected network graph of co-occurring hashtags in tweets about ID2020.

In a matter of weeks, ID2020 has gone from niche international policy operator to the subject of thousands of hostile media postings, to having to call in the FBI.

The results of being caught up in COVID-19 conspiracy theories, meanwhile, can be dramatic.

The case of ID2020

A public-private coalition — members include representatives from Microsoft and Accenture as well as NGOs, academia, blockchain firms, and others — ID2020 is advising the government of Bangladesh on a vaccination records system.

A ‘wild ride’ starts with prolific conspiracy theorist Alex Jones

In a telephone interview with TNH, Gruener, the ID2020 CEO, said it had been a “wild ride” and she was “mystified”, adding: “I don’t know who’s behind this.” Gruener could, however, trace the beginnings of the firestorm back to October 2019.

How ID2020 got sucked into COVID-19 conspiracy theories

According to Gruener, the flurry of chatter started by Jones — who has long promoted rumours of plans to microchip the public — died down in October but re-surfaced recently in much greater strength amidst the flood of COVID-19 misinformation.

Is there anything to it?

The accusations against ID2020 are clearly false but, as with much misinformation, grains of truth in the conspiracy theory are being spun into the bigger lie. A couple of examples:

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