Disinformation can be deadly. Tobacco industry propaganda disguising the dangers of smoking; the actions of big oil to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change; corrupt scientists telling parents that life-saving vaccines are unsafe: all have cost lives. And so it goes in a pandemic. “We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic,” said the director general of the World Health Organization earlier this year. It was prescient.
There are people with a clear motivation to spread disinformation regardless of the human cost.
But the most puzzling motivation in the disinformation ecosystem are of the scientists who get caught up in it.