19

Taiwan News reported the following on February 5:

As many experts question the veracity of China's statistics for the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, Tencent over the weekend seems to have inadvertently released what is potentially the actual number of infections and deaths, which were astronomically higher than official figures, but are eerily in line with predictions from a respected scientific journal.

[...]

On late Saturday evening (Feb. 1), the Tencent webpage showed confirmed cases of the Wuhan virus in China as standing at 154,023, 10 times the official figure at the time. It listed the number of suspected cases as 79,808, four times the official figure.

The number of cured cases was only 269, well below the official number that day of 300. Most ominously, the death toll listed was 24,589, vastly higher than the 300 officially listed that day.

Were these numbers released by Tencent, and are they more accurate than the official figures?

8
  • 5
    Even if the Chinese government kept two separate sets of actual and official statistics on the Corona virus, why would a company like Tencent, which is an internet entertainment/ gaming company have access to the actual numbers?
    – quarague
    Feb 10 '20 at 8:56
  • 1
    @quarague - Reason number one is that there is an internal power struggle going on within the CCP and different numbers are put out and then removed. Reason number two is that the official numbers are available but "not available." Meaning that a political operative takes the numbers and makes them politically correct (in the 1984 sense).
    – Mayo
    Feb 13 '20 at 18:48
  • 1
    @Mayo You state that as a fact yet you have zero evidence to back it up. Feb 21 '20 at 21:30
  • 1
    @dan-klasson - PART 2: Do I have proof? No. We will never have proof until a) the CCP goes the way of the USSR and we access to internal documents b) Xi is replaced / convicted of mismanagement c) other, high-ranking officials are convicted of mismanagement.. (And C would not be proof positive either.)
    – Mayo
    Feb 24 '20 at 14:00
  • 2
    @Mayo So all we have are your anti-communist rants. Feb 24 '20 at 14:21
21

The Tencent screenshot is almost certainly a hoax, for the simple reason that such screenshots are extremely easy to fake. For example, here's how easy it is to get a "screenshot" of the New York Times showing millions of people dead in Japan.

First, we search for coronavirus and pick a random article. Here's a good one:

undoctored new york times screenshot

Next, hit F12 to open up developer tools. Click the selector button. If you're using Chrome, it'll be in the upper left hand corner, like so:

developer tools selector

Once you've selected the selector, select the headline:

selected headline

Go back to developer tools, and you'll notice that the headline has been automated located in the page HTML for you:

headline html

Change it to something suitably apocalyptic:

doctored html

And bam, just like that, you have a screenshot of the New York Times accidentally leaking the horrible truth about the coronavirus:

fake new york times headline

So the question is, what's more likely - that, in a world filled with coronavirus hoaxes, someone took two minutes to make yet another hoax, or that the secret "real" coronavirus numbers somehow made their way onto a private company's content management system for their website?

I'm leaning toward the first.

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  • 5
    What is left to know is how many can corroborate to have seen Tencent's page with those high numbers.
    – CPHPython
    Feb 14 '20 at 17:33
  • No body knows if it's true or not
    – user4951
    Apr 4 '20 at 13:10
  • This answer is almost certainly made by a Chinese troll factoy, for the simple reason that it would be incredibly easy for a Chinese troll factory to write it. So the question is, what's more likely - that, in a world filled with Chinese trolls, someone took two minute to write another fake answer, or that somebody somehow actually arrived at the truth by asking leading questions and appeals to common sense. I'm leaning toward the first.
    – sgf
    May 7 at 13:37
3

Tencent denied those figures were ever published on their site. And there's seemingly no corroborating evidence besides that screenshot:

The screenshot was first picked up by NTDTV, a U.S.-based, Mandarin-language news organization that's highly critical of the Chinese government. It then made its way onto the Taiwan News website in English — where it was described as the accidental release of the real numbers — before exploding on Western social media. On Thursday morning, British tabloid The Daily Mail ran a story on the screenshot, garnering some 8,000 shares on Facebook in a few hours. [...]

It's important to note that only one copy of the screenshot with 24,589 deaths exists. If QQ had the higher death toll, even for just a few minutes, to its 899 million users, one would expect many different screenshots of the same figures to exist.

Screenshots of QQ's website are therefore not definitive proof that those numbers were ever displayed for all to see on the website. And no archived version of the site exists showing the higher numbers, despite the fact that multiple archived versions of the site are available online.

In a statement to CBC News, Tencent condemned the screenshots, which it called "unscrupulous behaviour."

"Unfortunately, several social media sources have circulated doctored images of our 'Epidemic Situation Tracker' featuring false information which we never published," the company said.

-2

In a MedCram video entitled Coronavirus Epidemic Update 12: Unsupported Theories, Pneumonia, ACE2 & nCoV, pulmonologist Dr. Seheualt looks at the "leaked" numbers, and calculates the death ratio (deaths divided by confirmed cases) as around 16%.

He compares that to the experience with nCoV-2019 in Japan and Singapore, and suggests that the number of deaths is lower than would be expected if the leak was accurate expected.

(Sheheault performs no statistical analysis of the likelihood of these results, and does not consider if the ratio might be different due to the initial health or treatment regimes of the countries.)

He concludes that the leaked data is inaccurate.

1
  • However, he did not consider that the date of the actual outbreak may not be the one being reported.
    – CPHPython
    Feb 10 '20 at 15:49

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