News that US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for Covid-19 has triggered an explosion of wild rumours, misinformation and conspiracy theories on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
With the president now a patient at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Maryland, the rumours are bound to intensify and get wilder.
Every political persuasion has their own theories about what the truth may be.
Top rumour is that Trump doesn’t really have the virus at all but is faking it to dodge the next presidential debate, or even get the election postponed.
Others are also sure that Trump is faking it but for other reasons.
“I mean, honestly, do we know this is real? Do we know this isn’t some election ruse where he claims he’s cured himself with some obscure drug that his company coincidentally makes?” tweeted attorney Ken White.
From the other side come allegations that he was deliberately exposed to the virus at Tuesday’s debate against the Democrat nominee Joe Biden.
“I’m just going to say what we’re all thinking. Trump was fine until the debate, where they set up microphones & podiums for him. Incubation period is usually 2-3 days. He tests positive a couple of days after the debate. I put nothing past the left. NOTHING,” tweeted former Republican congressional candidate DeAnna Lorraine. “Does anyone else find it odd that no prominent Democrats have had the virus but the list of Republicans goes on and on?”
Several federal Democratic politicians have actually tested positive but how many eager re-tweeters are aware of that or even care?
Twitter says it is working to limit views of certain tweets and retweets but there are millions of them spreading almost as many conspiracy theories.
Facebook says it is constantly monitoring for misinformation around the president’s diagnosis and has started applying fact checks to some posts.
Many people are concerned that bad actors, such as Russia and Iran, will use this situation to promote their own conspiracy theories and provoke tensions to sow chaos among Americans.
If chaos is the desired result, it already seems to be happening.
With the president now in hospital there’s going to be so much mud-slinging and so many opposing conspiracy theories that the whole country needs to be on high alert when scrolling social media feeds.
They say we’re in the information age, but it would be wise to remember that this is also the age of misinformation.