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COVID-19 has triggered a new wave of conspiracy theories among those who fear a ‘cashless society’

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COVID-19 has triggered a new wave of conspiracy theories among those who fear a 'cashless society'

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  • The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a fresh wave of online conspiracy theories around fears of a future ‘cashless society’. 
  • Cashless payments more than tripled in the US between March and April – accounting for 8% to 31% of all transactions. It fell to account for 20% of transactions in June. 
  • One social media post claiming the decline in cash payments has “nothing to do with the virus” has been repeatedly shared on Facebook and Twitter, potentially reaching millions of users. 
  • Social media expert Tristan Hotham told Business Insider such conspiracies consist in a “grey area [that risks] sending users down the rabbit hole”. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a fresh wave of online conspiracy theories around fears of a future “cashless society.”

Cashless transactions have spiked amid the pandemic, according to research from payments firm Square, more than tripling between March and April in the US – from 8% to 31% of all payments – before leveling off at 20% in June. 

Earlier in July, Mississippi resident Wendy Singleton shared a lengthy post on Facebook, claiming to outline what “NO CASH ACTUALLY MEANS” for wider society. 

The 700-word post – which has so far been shared 344,000 times – claims there will be “no more money in birthday cards … no more charity collections … banks [will] have full control of every single penny you own [and] the government will decide what you can and cannot purchase”. 

Prior to Singleton’s own version of the post, it had previously been reposted on Twitter by a user named Louise Fallon, where it received 18,000 retweets and 56,000 likes, and before that by Colorado resident David Tweedy, again on Facebook, where it received 219,000 shares. 

It reads: “If you are a customer, pay with cash. If you are a shop owner, remove those ridiculous signs that ask people to pay by card … Banks are making it increasingly difficult to lodge cash [and] that has nothing to do with a virus…

“Politics [and] greed is what is wrong with the world, not those who are trying to alert you to the reality in which you are blindly floating along whilst being immobilised by irrational fear.”

The World Health Organization was forced to clarify its position on cash payments in March, claiming British media reports had misrepresented its position on the issue. The Daily Telegraph, a British broadsheet, previously cited the WHO in an article suggesting dirty bank notes could be spreading the coronavirus.  

But a WHO spokesperson told MarketWatch the organization’s guidance had been “misrepresented” in news articles suggesting bank notes could spread COVID-19, adding: “We said you should wash your hands after handling money, especially if handling or eating food.” 

The idea of a “cashless society” has been in circulation for decades, with Sweden among those regularly touted as most likely the first nation to do away with bank notes altogether. 

Even so, there remains a host of pros (speedy transactions, better economic data, reduced business risks) and cons (limited privacy, centralized control, digital fraud) which remain hotly debated. 

Tristan Hotham, founder of the Social Media Research Centre, told Business Insider conspiracies such as these “thrive” through their combination of truth and fake information. 

“We have known for a long time that society as a whole could eventually operate without physical cash,” he said. “But these kinds of conspiracies gain traction by mixing that with total nonsense.” 

As the pandemic swept the planet, social media platforms have taken steps to counter misinformation around COVID-19, fearing the immediate consequences of letting conspiracies circulate unchallenged. 

Hotham said: “It’s interesting because, while this does make reference to the pandemic, it’s sort of in that grey area, where it might not immediately put anyone in danger, in the way that anti-mask posts do.

“But it could certainly send someone down the rabbit hole.” 



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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories – KTVZ

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories - KTVZ

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Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York are calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to create a new bipartisan committee focused on election integrity and schedule hearings to reassure Americans over a process President Donald Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine.

There is growing anxiety among Democrats, and some Republicans, that Trump will not only continue to sow doubt over the legitimacy of the coming election but throw the subsequent count into chaos by declaring victory before all the votes can be tallied, including the millions that will arrive by mail.

In a letter to McConnell, Sanders and Schumer quote back the Kentucky senator’s own words, in which he attested to the reliability of mail-in voting by citing its successes in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, which have been using the system for years.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the validity of mail-in voting, promoted conspiracy theories questioning election security, called on supporters to act as unsanctioned “poll watchers,” and suggested that the absence of a clear result by the evening of November 3 would in some way cast doubt on the eventual outcome. Key allies in powerful positions, like Attorney General Bill Barr, have followed suit. Barr has persisted in puffing up a debunked claim that ballots received by mail would somehow strip the sender of their privacy — ignoring well-established safeguards.

By escalating the matter now, Sanders and Schumer are responding to growing concern, in partisan and nonpartisan spaces, that Americans are not adequately prepared for the potential of a longer-than-usual wait for results or Trump’s willingness to short-circuit the democratic process if he smells defeat.

“Democrats and Republicans in Congress must come together to ensure that we have a free and fair election where every vote is cast and counted without intimidation,” Sanders told CNN, “where no one has to put his or her health in danger to cast a ballot, and where we have full confidence in the results.”

The proposed hearings would invite a cross-section of election officials from across the country to testify to the security and reliability of mail-in, early- and in-person voting — subjects on which Sanders and Schumer, again, referenced McConnell’s own words.

“Despite the clear security of our vote-by-mail system, some have continued to undermine it with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud,” they wrote. “As you have correctly said, people ‘can vote early, you can vote on Election Day, or you can drop it in the mail,’ and that voters should ‘not worry about your vote not counting.’”

The minority leader and Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, also want more detailed discussion about the fraught hours, or days, after the polls close and a real-time watch of the election horse race potentially swings from one candidate to another.

“We know a number of states may well be counting ballots for a period of time after Election Day, and that those votes may be determinative in this election,” the senators wrote to McConnell. “To avoid disinformation, conspiracy theories, and suspicion about results, we must understand the likely timeline for this process.”

The letter goes on to reference the recent war games-style preparations conducted by a group called the Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan gathering of operatives and academics that made headlines when some of the outcomes of their exercises — including “both street-level violence and political impasse” — were reported on in late July.

“A bipartisan group of experts and officials have studied multiple scenarios where the outcome of the election was not immediately known. Some of these scenarios resulted in unrest and even violence,” Sanders and Schumer wrote, suggesting the Senate should elevate similar discussions and familiarize the public with the uncertainties ahead. “We would like to hear from the most knowledgeable people in the country as to how we can do everything possible to make sure that the election and the period afterward is secure and peaceful.”

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS supported Caputo, with a statement that called him a critical, integral part of the presidents coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was no immediate statement from the White House.

Attempts to reach Caputo were unsuccessful.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called on Azar to fire Caputo, accusing the spokesman of trying to interfere with CDC reports to the medical and scientific community, as well as the public at large. And Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Azar himself to resign, citing interference with the CDC as one example of what he termed the administration’s failures.

Officials at CDC have privately complained of recent efforts by political appointees at main HHS to try to edit or press for changes in the agency’s weekly MMWR publications, a go-to resource for public health professionals.

MMWR articles are technical, but they reveal telling details. One published earlier this year noted that while Trump’s travel restrictions dramatically reduced travel from China in February, nothing was being done at that time to restrict travel from Italy and Europe, where the coronavirus was spreading widely and rapidly. Analysis of virus samples from hard-hit New York in March suggested it was introduced there from Europe and other parts of the U.S., the CDC article reported.

Caputo is an unswerving Trump loyalist. His recent book, The Ukraine Hoax, claims the presidents phony impeachment was rooted in a vast conspiracy.

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS…

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS...

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My RSS Feedunwinona:

This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS and Polio narrative (among others), only we’re seeing it escalated to weeks and months instead of years or decades.

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