Explained: Covid-19 research with pre-2020 dates in Google search results

A.G.

Senior Member.
I've been shown some Google searches which are claimed to be evidence of the Covid pandemic being planned, since the dates in the search results predate the pandemic itself. The linked articles themselves are not suspicious in the least. I'm thinking that this is just some kind of glitch/bug in the Google database, but can't find any info. Is anyone here better acquainted with this type of anomaly? I'm pretty sure I've seen similar stuff a few years ago, related to other conspiracy theories.

Here is the search I was sent:
Example

Skärmavbild 2021-01-06 kl. 16.44.54.png

Thankful for any help!
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Quoting myself from five years ago:

Dates and times are frequently wrong on the internet. That's all there is to it.

Examples:
https://www.metabunk.org/threads/debunked-vimeo-video-proves-sandy-hook-was-preplanned.1055/
https://www.metabunk.org/threads/de...ore-the-crash-and-other-timeline-issues.3988/
https://www.metabunk.org/threads/debunked-natural-news-boston-controlled-explosion-exercise.1395/

Since this is known to happen, then the onus is on the theorist to demonstrate that the timestamps are correct.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
With the example above, the technical issue (as in the three linked threads I gave) is that the web page header has no datetime meta tag. So Google looks through the text for what looks like an article date.

In this case there's a hidden list in the page source:
HTML:
    <a href="https://www.immunology.ox.ac.uk/upcoming-events/neuroinflammation-meeting" class="state-published" title="An afternoon of talks from groups across the University working at the interface of immunology and neuroscience">
        <span>Neuroinflammation Meeting</span>
    </a>

</li>
<li>


    <a href="https://www.immunology.ox.ac.uk/upcoming-events/oxford-immunology-symposium" class="state-published" title="A two-day showcase of the fantastic immunology, infection and inflammation research taking place across Oxford">
        <span>Oxford Immunology Symposium, 23-24 April 2019</span>
    </a>

</li>
<li>


    <a href="https://www.immunology.ox.ac.uk/upcoming-events/hidi-day-1-oct-2018" class="state-published" title="Find out more about the Human Immune Discovery Initiative (HIDI)">
        <span>HIDI Day 1 Oct, 2018</span>
    </a>

</li>
<li>


    <a href="https://www.immunology.ox.ac.uk/upcoming-events/basic-and-translational-immunology-course" class="state-published" title="Join Professor Abul Abbas for this one-day teaching course on 8th April, 2019, at Worcester College. This is an ideal opportunity for DPhil students, post-docs and clinicians to hear from a world-leading authority on translational immunology.">
        <span>Basic and Translational Immunology Course</span>
    </a>

</li>
<li>




    <a href="https://www.immunology.ox.ac.uk/upcoming-events/hidi-day-2019-monday-21st-october" class="state-published" title="Learn more about the Human Immune Discovery Initiative (HIDI) and how it can support your research. Join us for an afternoon of talks from researchers who have successfully applied for funding from the HIDI Internal Fund to collaborate with HIDI Discovery Platforms.">
        <span>HIDI Day 2019, Monday 21st October</span>
    </a>

</li>

One tag in the code:
HTML:
<span>HIDI Day 1 Oct, 2018</span>

Is parsed as being the date, 1 Oct, 2018. In fact it's "HIDI Day 1" in Oct 2018.

The list is a list of links to other articles, and is included in the HTML code after the footer, and does not display. Like in other examples, it sloppy web page programming in two regards: not having a data meta tag, and having orphaned bits of html that contain things that look like article dates.

Some fault also goes to Google's programmers for being overly lenient in what they choose to take as a date tag.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Looking at the page source, I see a list of news links including this:
HTML:
    <a href="https://www.immunology.ox.ac.uk/upcoming-events/hidi-day-1-oct-2018" class="state-published" title="Find out more about the Human Immune Discovery Initiative (HIDI)">
        <span>HIDI Day 1 Oct, 2018</span>
    </a>
My guess is that when the Google computer tries to date a page, it scans it for dates and makes some guesses as to which date is the correct posting date, and this time, it's simply wrong. There is no way for Google to learn the proper date of when this was posted.

You can follow the "link to paper" to bioarxiv, where it's dated as "Posted April 19, 2020."

Apologies to Mick, you posted while I was composing this.
 

A.G.

Senior Member.
Thanks a lot, guys. The "sometimes dates are wrong on the internet" would be enough for me, but the technical explanations will let me write a little less vague answer. (Not that the person in question will believe me, but still...) :)
 
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