Misinformation Researcher Sander Van Der Linden Caught Lying, Spreading Misinformation

Misinformation Researcher Sander Van Der Linden Caught Lying, Spreading Misinformation

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Authored by Paul D. Thacker via The Disinformation Chronicle (subscribe here),

Sander van der Linden’s webpage at Cambridge University says he is an esteemed academic, with prior positions at Princeton and Yale, and has published studies on social influence misinformation, and fake news that place him among the top 1% of all social researchers and the top 2% across all of science.

Pretty much every major media outlet—the New York TimesBBCCNNThe EconomistNPR, the Washington Post and NBC Nightly News—has interviewed van der Linden about his research, while his book “FOOLPROOF: Why Misinformation Infects Our Minds and How to Build Immunity” received wide praise.

But a month back, he climbed down from his lofty academic perch and picked a fight on X with writer Nate Silver and … Professor van der Linden got crushed: exposed as a liar and a quack who spreads misinformation while editing his personal Wikipedia page for the last decade through various single purpose accounts (SPAs) or sock puppets, to burnish his credentials and promote himself and his research.

“We are still getting numerous SPAs on this topic,” one Wikipedia editors noted about Sander van der Linden’s biography. “Nothing has changed, except they’ve gotten better at not getting caught.”

Examined in detail, the van der Linden episode highlights growing evidence that “misinformation research” is just politics dressed up in academic garb to suppress and censor dissent on controversial topics.

The kerfuffle kicked off a few weeks back when Sander van der Linden whipped up a brawl on X with Nate Silver, perhaps because Silver has 3.3 million followers and van der Linden has around 15K and was hoping to attract some attention to himself. Days after the spat began, van der Linden was exposed for having edited Wikipedia pages to promote himself and his research. But more on that later.

In the first round, van der Linden promoted an article from years back, calling the possibility of a lab accident a racist conspiracy theory. Virologists and disinformation “experts” promoted this line for years, until too much evidence squirted out showing that it never made sense. Plus, why is it “racist” to say the pandemic started in a Chinese lab and not in a Chinese market that sells wild animals?

It’s a narrative that never made any sense and was obviously designed to shut down discussion by labeling people “racist.”

“Misinformation has become a completely incoherent concept,” Silver wrote. “A game of ‘I’m rubber, you’re glue.’”

Oh, but it goes on.

Van der Linden then argued there was a “consensus” that the pandemic started naturally, as opposed to a “conspiracy” that it began in a lab. Again, this highlights how much of disinformation “research” is slapping labels on ideas for reasons that are never really explained. It’s rhetorical magic.

And van der Linden ignores bounties of evidence that virologists ran a propaganda campaign to shout down anyone asking questions about a lab accident by planting papers in The Lancet, Emerging Microbes & Infections, and Nature Medicine.

“The ‘broad’ definition of misinformation is incoherent,” Silver noted. “What is signifies now is an effort to suppress dissent and launder partisan opinions into a false consensus on matters of legitimate controversy. It’s a cynical enterprise, aimed at the gullible.”

Van der Linden then doubled down with the “this is all a racism” argument.

“Half the reason Team Misinformation people bug me,” Silver responded, “Is because it’s just so obvious what they’re doing, taking genuinely contentious discussions and stigmatizing the positions that don’t match their politics with the thinnest imaginable reeds of expert authority.”

Oh, but it continued … for several days. (This guy needs attention, no?)

Van der Linden then put out a tweet to drag others into the fight, including Peter Hotez, who was caught funding gain-of-function studies in Wuhan, researcher Angela Rasmussen, and Arizona’s Michael Worobey, whose research on the pandemic’s origin has been noted for “careless and unprofessional handling of statistical methodology.”

At this point, it became pretty clear that van der Linden was trolling Silver to bring attention to himself—and he got that attention.

Digging through van der Linden’s Wikipedia page, the X account @triplebankshot noted that Wiki editors had caught van der Linden editing his page for the last decade through various sock puppets to create a suite of promotional material.

“This guy is a complete fraud / pathological liar. He’s been repeatedly banned from Wikipedia over the last 10+ years for using an army of sockpuppets to create articles about himself with self-promotional material.”

In the talk section of Sander van der Linden’s Wikipedia page, editors discussed how various purportedly unrelated accounts kept adding entries to promote Sander van der Linden, his research, and his book. Here’s some of their findings:

The editors concluded that these accounts were being generated just to promote Sander van der Linden, meaning van der Linden was orchestrating these accounts to craft propaganda about himself.

Some final thoughts from Silver about the whole Sander van der Linden episode and the silly academic discipline of “misinformation research.”

Original Article


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