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Coronavirus news is being manipulated by pro- and anti-China actors.

Accepted submission by Anonymous Coward at 2020-02-06 22:13:15 from the engage-your-skeptical-filters-before-proceeding dept.

Coronavirus news is being manipulated by pro- and anti-China actors.

Readers should be highly skeptical of all news content relating to the current coronavirus pandemic. It is obvious that powerful state actors are involved in setting conflicting narratives on this subject and no news outlet or social media should be trusted implicitly.

For example, news outlets have been reporting that the official numbers of suspected, infected, dead, and recovered patients have been manipulated. See

Tencent may have accidentally leaked real data ... []

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As many experts question the veracity of China's statistics for the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, Tencent over the weekend appeared to inadvertently release what is potentially the actual number of infections and deaths — which are far higher than official figures, but eerily in line with predictions from a respected scientific journal.

As early as Jan. 26, netizens were reporting that Tencent, on its webpage titled "Epidemic Situation Tracker," briefly showed data on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in China that was much higher than official estimates, before suddenly switching to lower numbers. Hiroki Lo, a 38-year-old Taiwanese beverage store owner, that day reported that Tencent and NetEase were both posting "unmodified statistics," before switching to official numbers in short order.

Lo told Taiwan News than on Jan. 26 he checked the numbers on both Tencent and NetEase and found them "really scary." He said he did not know whether the numbers were real or not, but did not have much time to think about it as he had a busy day of work ahead at his store.

Lo said he did not check the numbers again until he went home that evening, when he was shocked to see they had dropped dramatically and "something was wrong." He said he noticed individuals on a Hong Kong Facebook group also observed the same bizarre occurrence that day.

On late Saturday evening (Feb. 1), the Tencent webpage showed confirmed cases of the Wuhan virus in China as standing at 154,023, 10 times the official figure at the time. It listed the number of suspected cases as 79,808, four times the official figure.

The number of cured cases was only 269, well below the official number that day of 300. Most ominously, the death toll listed was 24,589, vastly higher than the 300 officially listed that day.

Moments later, Tencent updated the numbers to reflect the government's "official" numbers that day. Netizens noticed that Tencent has on at least three occasions posted extremely high numbers, only to quickly lower them to government-approved statistics.

Feb. 1 chart showing higher numbers (left), chart showing "official" numbers (right). (Internet image)

Netizens also noticed that each time the screen with the large numbers appears, a comparison with the previous day's data appears above, which demonstrates a "reasonable" incremental increase, much like the official numbers. This has led some netizens to speculate that Tencent has two sets of data, the real data and "processed" data.

Some are speculating that a coding problem could be causing the real "internal" data to accidentally appear. Others believe that someone behind the scenes is trying to leak the real numbers.

However, the "internal" data held by Beijing may not reflect the true extent of the epidemic. According to multiple sources in Wuhan, many coronavirus patients are unable to receive treatment and die outside of hospitals.

A severe shortage of test kits also leads to a lower number of diagnosed cases of infection and death. In addition, there have been many reports of doctors being ordered to list other forms of death instead of coronavirus to keep the death toll artificially low.

Although some are chalking up the images to users tampering with their browsers, the 154,023 infections on Feb. 1 are remarkably close to the estimate predicted on that date by a scientific modeling study [] carried out by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and published on the Lancet website. The study estimates the number of cases is much more given the 2.68 spread rate per case, the doubling of total infections every 6.4 days, and known travel patterns in China and worldwide.

The study stated that by Jan. 25, there were likely already 75,815 people infected with the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Wuhan. This number for January far exceeds the number of 28,000 given by the government on Feb. 6.

As the report estimated over 75,000 cases on Jan. 25, and the Feb. 1 post was seven days later, the number of cases in Wuhan alone, according to the model, should have reached 150,000, uncannily close to the 154,023 listed for all of China on the Tencent page. With nearly 12 days having passed since the report was released, the model predicts the number of infections in Wuhan could now stand at 300,000 [].

Another strange phenomenon that netizens have noticed is the mortality rate, as the government death tolls are routinely maintaining an exact percentile for days on end. Many noticed that in the early days of reporting, the government put the death rate at 3.1 percent.

Jan. 22: 17 deaths / 542 infections = 3.1 percent
Jan. 23: 26 deaths / 830 infections = 3.1 percent
Jan. 24: 41 deaths / 1,287 infections = 3.1 percent

By late January, the government apparently decided to set the new official mortality rate at 2.1 percent. As can be seen in the image below, the mortality rate was kept at a precise 2.1 percent, regardless of the numbers from Jan. 30 to Feb. 3:

(Internet image)

The mortality rates for the numbers briefly shown on Tencent are much higher. The death rate for Jan. 26 was 2,577 deaths out of 15,701 infections, or 16 percent.

The death rate for the Feb. 1 post was 24,589 deaths out of 154,023 infections, which also comes out to 16 percent. The death rates briefly shown are clearly vastly higher than the official percentages and substantially higher than SARS at 9.6 percent, but lower than MERS at 34.5 percent.

(Pertinant statistics are contained in the two "Internet image" links. More detailed information may be found at the linked article on The Lancet's website.)

Others have reported outdated information in order to minimize the perceived danger, such as "debunking" this doctor's death. (After a large number of negative responses by grass-roots commentors CNN was compelled to update their post.) See

Wuhan hospital announces death of whistleblower doctor after confusion in state media []

Wuhan hospital announces death of whistleblower doctor after confusion in state media

Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds.

This story has been updated to reflect the latest statement from Wuhan Central Hospital, after confusion in state media reports.

Li died of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan in the early hours of Friday morning (local time).

"Our hospital's ophthalmologist Li Wenliang was unfortunately infected with coronavirus during his work in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic," the latest hospital statement read.

"He died at 2:58 am on Feb 7 after attempts to resuscitate were unsuccessful."

Earlier on Thursday night, several state media outlets had reported Li's death, following which Chinese social media erupted in profound grief and anger.

CNN's Amy Woodyatt contributed to this story.

Less restrictive outlets like 4chan are known to be targets of state-sponsored propaganda activities, however they also frequently contain primary sourcing as individual leakers may post content there without the risk of intermediaries enforcing censorship or editing. See

/pol/ - Politically Incorrect » Thread #242645852 []

I have the cure for the Coronavirus. I have been trying for days to reach anybody who can use it, to no avail. This is a CRISPR-based cure. With ten gene knock-ins to a fast reproducing cell line, the virus capsid (shell) will be reproduced and budded off, without the payload. The capsid contains non-pathogenic virus and CRISPR Cas-9 with a PAM inhibitor chemical. PAM is the protein that physically cuts the RNA. It is inhibited immediately upon folding, so it won't cut its own RNA or that of the host cell line. Upon injection of solute virions to the bloodstream, the cure virus will begin entering and reproducing in the same cells targeted by the Coronavirus. Once a critical mass of cells are infected, the activation chemical is introduced into the bloodstream. It freely diffuses through cell walls, and removes the inhibitor, causing CRISPR to destroy the viral genes that encode for surface receptors. This renders the virus incapable of budding and the target cells permanently immune to the virus. I deserve to be paid for this. For a billion Chinese, at $4 a dose, this cure is worth billions. I need to find somebody to either fund a lab to create it myself, or license it so I get royalties once it enters production. I estimate I can have mass-production ready in a month. If you can do it sooner, please let me know. This is the cure.

Of course any given piece of news may be slanted, minimize the impact of certain facts, employ emotional rhetoric, or be outright disinformation. Readers must employ skepticism at all times. The wisest approach is to make copies of content with notes as to the time and date of the report as well as the perceived source, then check back later to see if the source was updated or disproven. In this way the trustworthiness of sources can be established and an accurate understanding of the event can be acquired over time.

The above post from 4chan will likely turn out to be fiction or may indeed be the blueprint for a virus-delivered knock out treatment. Time will tell. An intelligent reader may use this example to practice their skeptical analysis.

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