Will the COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA and hook me to an AI?

I understand that it is not always easy to sift between real and fake news. When in doubt, even after going through the three steps above, better just ignore the new item rather than sharing it


Believe it or not, I did not make up the title. One of the most popular fake news circulating the internet at the moment is that the COVID-19 vaccines will change recipients’ DNA and turn us into genetically modified organisms. But the fabrication doesn’t stop there; they also claim that the vaccine will “hook us all up to an Artificial Intelligence (AI) interface”.

Wow, rather mindblowing I would say, especially for someone like me who has been working in AI for the past two decades. First of all, because the technology does not exist, and second because why would anyone do so? So unless you’re a Matrix fan, I cannot fathom any plausible reason why a highly intelligent AI organism (which doesn’t exist yet) would want to turn humans into very inefficient batteries.   

So enough with this trash. First, let’s start by putting everyone’s mind at rest. Our DNA will not be affected by these vaccines, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Second, there is no AI in existence capable (or eager) to suck out our energy. This news item is just fake news. 

In recent years, we have seen a massive rise in Fake News. Such news is sensational by design; it is economical on the truth to drive traffic to the website that produces it. By doing so, they earn money through adverts. It’s a straightforward model which works perfectly. It preys on the fears of people, and by doing so, they become accomplices in the spreading of fake news. 70% of people share such stories when compared to those that share real news, and because of this, it reaches a broader population 20% faster. AI algorithms also act as accomplices in this case. We estimate that on the internet, there is an army of bots (around 200 million) spreading fake news. These bots are computer programs who live on the internet and whose job is to disseminate news. Some are designed on purpose to diffuse misinformation. Other bots don’t do it on purpose, but since they learn to spread the most viral news, in most cases, that news is fake. 

So the million-dollar question is how to detect fake news? We can do this by using the following three simple steps; analysing the language, analysing the facts and analysing the sources. Don’t worry; it’s much simpler than you think. Let me explain how. 

First of all, most of these fake stories use a kind of language which is different than real news. The title typically gives a good indication since these stories try to be sensational, misleading and alarmist using a clickbait format. One such claim is the following which was shared by almost 1 million individuals; “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump”. It attracts attention by design, tries to entice users to follow the link and consume that content. So when you read something of the sort which uses bombastic words and which seems too good to be true, the alarm bells should start ringing.

Second, once you read the document, don’t stop there but extract the facts. Ask yourself, what is the main give away from that article? In the article about COVID-19 vaccine, we can identify two claims; “COVID-19 vaccine alters my DNA” and “COVID-19 vaccine will hook me to an AI”. The best way to check whether these are correct or no is by using an old friend called Google. Just paste those statements in the search engine and see what comes up. If authoritative organisations like the World Health Organisation published those claims, then you can consider them as facts; otherwise, they are probably fake news. These stories also tend to quote unknown scientists. To check the work of scientists, Google offers another free service called Google Scholar. So all you have to do is go to Google Scholar and check the veracity of these claims. 

Third, if you’re still in doubt, check the authenticity of the sources. Websites such as Breaking-CNN.com, CBSnews.com.co and cnn-trending.com are designed to mix you up. They give the impression that they are affiliated with respectable news networks like CNN or CBS. They even copy their website layout and logo. So when in doubt, the best approach is to go to the original website and look for that story. If you can’t find it, then it’s probably nothing more than a hoax. 

I understand that it is not always easy to sift between real and fake news. When in doubt, even after going through the three steps above, better just ignore the new item rather than sharing it. Remember that by sharing something on social media, you are also sharing the responsibility of that piece of information.

Some people have been summoned to court just because of that because effectively, they are editors of their social media profile. A share is generally considered as an endorsement of that story. While some of those stories might be amusing, others might be lethal. Just this year, the spread of fake coronavirus news (such as drinking bleach or eating cow dung to heal from the virus) caused hundreds of deaths.

So don’t be an accomplice, check the news item, inform yourself and if in doubt, opt not to share something which might harm someone else.

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