A poll has revealed that scientists around the world have received death threats and sexual assault after speaking to the media about Covid-19.
Of the 321 scientists interviewed by Nature, 15% said they had received death threats and 22% had been threatened with physical or sexual violence as a result of speaking out about the pandemic.
Two-thirds of them said they had had a negative experience after appearing in the media.
Scientists revealed that they felt sad, afraid, and in some cases stopped sharing their opinions publicly after being harassed and intimidated.
The most common reasons for misuse were to provide perspectives on the Covid vaccine, face masks, the origins of the Covid virus, and the efficacy of drugs to treat the disease. Among them is ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug that has been endorsed by some who oppose the Covid vaccine.
University of Liverpool pharmacologist Dr Andrew Hill received pictures of hanged people and coffins after he and colleagues published a meta-analysis in July suggesting ivermectin might help treat Covid, but withdrew the paper after it questioned the data supporting it. One of the studies they analyzed.
Scientists – mainly from the UK, Germany and the US – recounted how they received abusive or threatening emails, including threats to kill themselves or their loved ones, sent by email, phone calls and social media, and posted their home addresses. . Six of the 321 scientists who responded to the magazine’s poll said they had been physically assaulted.
“I am shocked and saddened to hear that so many of my fellow scientists have been subjected to death threats or threats of physical or sexual violence, simply for doing their job of trying to communicate scientific facts that are so important to society in understanding and responding to this global health,” said Dr Simon Clark, Associate Professor of Microbiology. The University of Reading cellular who participated in the survey, the emergency.”
“I’ve had some bad experiences after appearing in the media, especially after calling in conspiracy theorists and some politicians, who seem to hate debunking their pet theories. I’ve sometimes received threats of various forms of death, violence and life imprisonment.”
Clarke added that while he was able to shrug off the threats, “I know some colleagues have had far worse experiences.” He added, “I suspect that these negative experiences reflect a broader malaise in public discourse in society, fueled by social media and growing social and political tribalism.”
Nature polled scientists in seven countries who have appeared in the media talking about Covid after a survey by the Australian Center for Media Science of 50 scientists found that six (12%) had received death threats and another six (12%) had experienced physical or sexual violence.
However, the larger journal sample found that higher proportions of scientists were on the receiving end of abuse, hostility, verbal abuse, or threats. More than two out of five of the 321 participants said they experienced psychological or emotional stress as a result.
Scientists have previously been the subject of coordinated campaigns on social media and threatening emails and phone calls after speaking out about the climate emergency, vaccination and gun violence, Nature says. “But even scientists who were prominent before Covid-19 told Nature that abuse was a new and unwelcome phenomenon linked to the pandemic,” he adds.
Dr Michael Head, Senior Research Fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton, said: “There has been a tremendous amount of abuse directed at every individual contributing to the response to the pandemic. The intensity of this harassment has increased dramatically across the pandemic, including becoming more organized and fearful than just Reckless comments on social media.”
Some scientists who have been teased tell nature that they are no longer appearing in the media to discuss Covid issues.
Fiona Fox, director of the Center for Science Media UK, said: “It is a huge loss for a scientist who has been engaging with the media, sharing his experiences, and being left out of public discussion at a time when we never really needed it so badly.”