Homophobic misinformation makes it harder to contain the spread of monkeypox

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That task is complicated by false, often homophobic theories that spread across all major social media platforms, according to research conducted for MIT Technology Review by the Center for Countering Digital Hate. These false claims make it more difficult to convince the public that monkeypox can affect anyone, and they can deter people from reporting possible infections.

Some of this misinformation overlaps with well-known pandemic conspiracy theories, involving Bill Gates and “global elites” or suggesting that the virus was developed in a lab† But much of it is outright homophobic, trying to blame LGBTQ+ communities for the outbreak. Some Twitter posts claim that countries where anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric is illegal are the areas where monkeypox rates are highest, or call the virus “the vengeance of the gods”. In a video shared on Twitter last month, Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene falsely claimed that “monkeypox is really only transmitted through gay sex.”

Homophobic comments to articles about monkey pox that have been liked thousands of times on Facebook are allowed to remain online, with one specific piece garnering hundreds of disgusting comments, shared more than 40,000 times via Telegram.

A YouTube video on a channel with 1.12 million subscribers contains false claims that monkey pox can be avoided simply by not going to gay orgies, being bitten by a rodent or getting a prairie dog as a pet. It has been viewed more than 178,000 times. Another video, from a channel with 294,000 subscribers, claims that women contract monkey pox by “contacting a man who is likely to have another contact with another man”; it has been viewed nearly 30,000 times. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.

Such stigma has real consequences: Infected people who may not want to talk about their sex life are less likely to report their symptoms, making it more difficult to detect new cases and effectively control the disease.

In reality, the virus can affect anyone and is unaware of people’s sexual identities or activities. Misinformation stating that monkeypox only affects men who have sex with men could convince people that they have a lower risk of contracting and spreading it than they actually are, says Julii Brainard, a senior research associate at the University of East Anglia working on modeling public health threats. “A lot of people will think, ‘That doesn’t apply to me,'” she says.

All this isn’t helped by the fact that we’re still not sure about all the ways monkeypox can be transmitted, or how it currently spreads. We know it’s spread through close contact with an infected person or animal, but WHO has said it’s also investigating reports that the virus is present in human semen, suggesting it can also be transmitted sexually, although sequence data so far have not provided evidence that Monkeypox works as an STD. It is also not known which animal acts as the natural reservoir of monkeypox (the host that sustains the virus in nature), although the WHO suspects this to be the case. rodents

While it’s still unclear how or where the outbreak started, the WHO believes that outside some countries in West and Central Africa where the virus is regularly found, it has started to spread from person to person, mainly among men who have sex. with men, after two raves. in Spain and Belgium. While typical symptoms of monkeypox have been swelling of the lymph nodes followed by the outbreak of lesions over the face, hands and feet, many people affected by the most recent outbreak show fewer lesions, developing on the hands, anus, mouth and genitals. This difference probably has to do with the nature of the contact.