“Our investigation linked this activity to Epoch Media Group, a US-based media organization, and individuals in Vietnam working on its behalf. The BL is now banned from Facebook.”
The Epoch Media Group however has always denied any connection to The BL and its Founder, Stephen Gregory released a statement at the time:
"The BL was founded by a former employee, and employs some of our former employees. However, that some of our former employees work for BL is not evidence of any connection between the two organizations,"
It then turned to YouTube, where its advertising alleged that Barack Obama had placed a spy within the Trump 2016 campaign and also praised Trump’s comments about “buying Greenland.” It also released a video claiming that the Coronavirus was created in a lab, this has been watched almost 70m times. There is currently no evidence that any research institute in Wuhan was the source of Covid-19 and scientific analysis shows the virus came from animals and was not man-made.
The Royal Mail released the following statement to Prolific North:
“Royal Mail is strictly neutral on political issues. The company and our employees do not endorse the views contained in any material that we deliver."
There has been a strong response across the UK, including Scotland, where Scottish Greens MSP, Ross Greer said:
"No-one should be fooled by this glossy magazine, it is nothing more than dangerous propaganda from a fringe extremist group."
Mick Whitley, the MP for Birkenhead added:
"I had a look at it and I think a better name would be the 'Crackpot Times.' It is full of wild accusations that the coronavirus was deliberately spread by the Chinese government. Not a shred of evidence is provided for this ridiculous conspiracy theory. The truth is that it is a pro-Donald Trump, pro-far-right publication."
It comes following calls from Damian Collins, the former chair of the Commons' Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee to make it a criminal offence to knowingly share Covid-19 disinformation.
Speaking to BBC's Emma Barnett Show he said:
“I think it should be an offence to do that [circulate harmful public health information] at scale and maliciously and knowingly. And for the social media companies themselves if that activity is reported to them and they fail to act against that content then I think that should be an offence for them to fail to act as well.”
Earlier this month, a peer-reviewed study, published in the journal, Psychological Medicine said that conspiracy theories about Covid-19 "may present a health risk" as people are more likely to break lockdown rules.
"There was a strong positive relationship between use of social media platforms as sources of knowledge about Covid-19 and holding one or more conspiracy beliefs. YouTube had the strongest association with conspiracy beliefs, followed by Facebook," said the study.
As part of the research, people were asked if they believed a number of conspiracy theories such as: that it was made in a laboratory; that death and infection figures were being manipulated by the authorities; and that symptoms were linked to 5G radiation; or that there was no hard evidence that the virus even exists.
None of these theories have any basis in fact.
Those who believed in the conspiracies were more likely to get their news from social media, with 56% believing the virus didn't exist got information from primarily Facebook.
60% who thought their was a link between 5G and Covid-19 get most of their information via YouTube.
Both YouTube and Facebook responded by saying they were removing "harmful misinformation."