Fake COVID-19 Patient Zero Conspiracy Brings Death Threats and International Notoriety

As Internet becomes one of the main sources of news, it is starting to show how unconfirmed fast news can ruin real lives of people. A US army reservist and a mom of two in Virginia is one of the most recent victim of this tragic situation. Maatje Benassi lives in Fort Belvoir, and was a target of conspiracy theorists that zoned in on her and falsely accused her of being the COVID-19 “Patient Zero.”

This went viral in China and soon took over the Internet, as her name quickly became associated with “patient zero,” despite it not being true. Soon, youtube videos, WeChat, Weibo, Xigua (the latter three being Chinese social platforms) showed false claims and hatred from many people.

The only connection she has to Wuhan was in her October visit to Wuhan as part of Military World Games, where she ended up with a fractured rib and a concussion during a cycling competition; there were hundreds of other athletes that also partook in the competition, yet she was the only one identified.

She and her family now lives in fear, as her name continues to be associated with a wrongful claim of being “patient zero,” thanks to a American conspiracy theorizer George Webb, whose Youtube videos have 100,000 followers and 27 million views. He has no real evidence and claims to be an investigative reporter, although not actually being one. Nonetheless, the act has made her real life very difficult, as the Benassi family deals with real threats.

The only recourse is through civil litigation, yet the Benassis do not have the financial means to obtain an attorney for this purposes.

Times like these, it is important to always verify what is presented in the Internet and read with a critical mind; not all that is out there is true.

And sometimes, misuse of truth can lead to very real harm, as is for the real lives of the Benassi family.


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