Social media is the wellspring of many a rumor. With the right followers, promotion and just a dash of outrage, even the most ludicrous story can find itself spreading across the web with ease.
The reason: The content algorithms of platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube depend on user engagement. This is what drives some of the strangest stories to trend on social media. If people are mad enough to read and share, you can bet its reach will grow. Tap or click here to see how Facebook plans to fight fake news by paying people to log off.
But as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage, some stories have the potential to prove more harmful than others. Right now, a story has started to trend that claims people who refuse the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine will suffer financial penalties at the hands of credit card companies. Is such a thing even possible? Here’s why you shouldn’t rush to believe everything you read.
Bill Gates is at it again!
If you’ve seen the following image spreading across your Facebook feed, don’t be surprised. It’s quickly gaining traction beyond its Australian roots thanks to its sensational claims of medical-based punishments.
If you follow the link, you’re treated to a frightening story about the consequences you’ll face for refusing the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine (something that hasn’t been approved or released yet). According to the post, vaccine companies have partnered with Mastercard to make vaccines mandatory, as well as tie all vaccine records to a digital card that works with cashless payments.
In short, the premise goes that people who refuse to take the vaccine will find their assets locked and their cashless payment methods (like credit and debit cards) suspended. What’s more, card technology used to record vaccines will show a person’s entire vaccine history, which can be used to further discriminate against them in the future.
Bill Gates, a major vaccine proponent, also makes a guest appearance in the article thanks to his frequent remarks on the subject.
As of now, the link has been marked as false information by Facebook, but that hasn’t stopped the post from picking up popularity in the process. If anything, it’s made people feel like Facebook has something to hide.
The premise, admittedly, is tantalizing. Could there really be a conspiracy to wipe out cash and force vaccines all in one fell swoop? The pandemic is an admittedly perfect cover, and with flu season just around the corner, the timing could not be better.
But the entire story falls apart once you look at it long enough.
Why is this story fake news?
According to an in-depth debunking by USAToday, the story presented by AVN simply doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. There are several reasons why this is the case.
The most important (and frustrating) thing to remember about this story is that many individual pieces of it are factual. Mastercard, as it turns out, did provide its technology to Gavi, the vaccine alliance, as part of a new program that creates digital immunization records for children and families in developing nations.
The record, called “Wellness Pass,” is designed to simplify immunization checks in these countries. A doctor can easily scan a child’s card and have their complete records available in seconds. Again, this is extremely important in developing nations that may lack the internet infrastructure we enjoy here in the U.S.
This technology, along with a corresponding biometric ID startup called Trust Stamp, targets West Africa primarily. People without proper ID or medical records can easily have their medical history associated with biometric data like face scans and fingerprints. And once again, Mastercard’s technology division is behind the push for this agenda.
But what does this have to do with financial control and mandatory vaccines? Absolutely nothing.
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Whoever created the viral story simply weaved together unrelated facts to create something that would trend on outrage and fear. Not only does this technology have nothing to do with money (other than Mastercard being behind the tech), it’s not even coming to America. It’s designed for countries that don’t have extensive record-keeping or hospital chains like we do.
Plus, the story doesn’t even account for how vaccine requirements are handled in the U.S. It’s actually mandated at the state level, and each one has different legal requirements applying to patients and healthcare workers.
The CDC even states that “All states require children to be vaccinated against certain communicable diseases as a condition for school attendance,” so you really only run into mandatory vaccines in the field of public schools and daycare facilities.
And even then, all states provide medical exemptions for vaccines. Some will exempt people for religious or personal beliefs.
In any case, be careful about what you share online — especially if it seems designed to provoke an emotional response. If you find what you’re reading makes you angry or fearful, ask yourself if this might be by design.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.