During the pandemic, perhaps the only thing to spread more than the novel coronavirus was wild conspiracies about Covid-19.
As much of the world went into lockdown, people went online to find answers, spend time on social media and apparently let their imaginations run wild.
A study by Harvard University published in August found "stories reinforcing conspiracy theories about Covid-19 had a higher virality than neutral or debunking stories".
Looking at social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, 4Chan and Instagram during the early months of the pandemic, researchers said there was "an unprecedented misinfodemic on social media" due to insufficient content moderation and users desperate for likes and followers.
One of the most bizarre ideas posits the pandemic was intentionally created in a plot by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The vaccine, the theory claims, is actually a tracking microchip that is connected to new telecom standard 5G, or something.
"There are lots of them, it's very hard to pin any of them down," said futurist Dr Richard Hames.
"They all relate to chips in vaccines, bio-weaponry ... but if you want to get to the truth, you have to ignore a lot of those," he told Yahoo News as part of its new Conspiracies Unpacked series.
Theory Covid originated in lab 'very unlikely'
One persistent conspiracy theory throughout the pandemic has been that the virus was man-made and escaped a lab at the Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China.
The theory was pushed by former US president Donald Trump and leading figures in his government as well as other notable figures including former head ok UK's secret intelligence service, Sir Richard Dearlove.
Nonetheless, most experts in the field believe it came from animals before making the jump to human infection – a finding that was endorsed by a WHO envoy who travelled to Wuhan to investigate the origins of the pandemic.
"It's very unlikely ... if you look at the scientists who are experts in this area, most of them would be saying that it is highly unlikely," Dr Hames said.
"I think the main reason the World Health Organisation decided to send a team to the Wuhan Institute was because there was so many people around the world saying 'what is the truth?'.
"Because of the world's suspicions around China and how China withholds information ... there are very good reasons" to question the actions of the Chinese authorities, Dr Hames said.
And there are some interesting facts that fuel the suspicion.
"There are very close financial links between the University of Virginia and the Wuhan Institute ... and in fact research that was undertaken in the US was later given to the Wuhan Institute specifically to work on coronaviruses," Dr Hames said.
However, the preponderance of evidence to date appears to confirm that SARS-CoV-2 is a zoonotic disease originating from the natural world rather than being created in a lab.
Learn more about the other stories in our Conspiracies Unpacked series including what's really lurking beneath Denver International Airport and truth about the Unites States' first female president.
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