Science & Technology

A handful of doctors stood on the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States yesterday and repeatedly spewed misinformation about COVID-19, including the already debunked claim that hydroxychloroquine is a "cure" and the erroneous and dangerous idea that people shouldn't wear masks to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Breitbart, a right-wing media company that routinely fails fact checks and doesn't even try to hide its bias, shared live video of it. And before the video was removed from social media sites for pushing misinformation—which sites are doing to attempt to get people to stop believing YouTube quackery over renowned, respected professionals—tens of millions of people ate it up and shared it, including the president of the United States.

Put another way, 0.001% of the million or so doctors in the U.S.—none of whom are epidemiologists, virologists, or infectious disease experts—reached millions of gullible Americans with a false message, calling actual scientific research "disinformation" and claiming that they know better than the people who have spent their entire careers studying viruses and researching infectious disease because they are "America's Frontline Doctors."

No, they are not "America's Frontline Doctors." They are teeny tiny thimble-full of doctors, and none of them are experts on viral disease.

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When I found out I was pregnant in October 2018, I had planned to keep the news a secret from family for a little while — but my phone seemed to have other ideas.

Within just a few hours of finding out the news, I was being bombarded with ads for baby gear, baby clothes and diapers on Facebook, Instagram and pretty much any other site I visited — be it my phone or on my computer.

Good thing my family wasn't looking over my shoulder while I was on my phone or my secret would have been ruined.

I'm certainly not alone in feeling like online ads can read your mind.

When I started asking around, it seemed like everyone had their own similar story: Brian Kelleher told me that when he and his wife met, they started getting ads for wedding rings and bridal shops within just a few weeks. Tech blogger Snezhina Piskov told me that she started getting ads for pocket projectors after discussing them in Messenger with her colleagues. Meanwhile Lauren Foley, a writer, told me she started getting ads for Happy Socks after seeing one of their shops when she got off the bus one day.

When online advertising seems to know us this well, it begs the question: are our phones listening to us?

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