OP Update: Directionality of skepticism

Is the loss of (15-21) million mobile users in China in part or partly linked to cover up of COVID-19 numbers?

I am not saying all these are COVID deaths. Maybe some part of it is related/ connected in some fashion and other parts may be mobile farms etc.

Digging into these huge number of losses & if we could break them down into various major chunks, could we find evidence that links to a cover up of Covid 19 losses?

What we have to see is mobile user numbers & their (montly/weekly) up/ down stats over the last few years & wonder if "its proportionately large" enough to warrant it not just being the "other reasons but also a portion of it is related to Covid 19 numbers being covered up.

To make a yes or no assessment in either direction without due data breakdown, would be premature.

Modified question - Please feel free to merge with above.

International Business Times reported on March 29 that 21 million cell phone accounts were cancelled in the past three months, and speculates that

gives an idea that probably these closed numbers belonged to the people who died due to the disease.


While explaining the scenario in China, Tang said,"At present, we don't know the details of the data. If only 10 percent of the cell phone accounts were closed because the users died because of the CCP virus [Novel Coronavirus], the death toll would be two million."

It also suggests alternative explanations:

"It's possible that some migrant workers had two cell phone numbers before. One is from their hometown, and the other is from the city they work in. In February, they might close the number in the city they work in because they couldn't go there."

Bloomberg also reported on March 23, 2020 that 21 million users were lost, but didn't speculate that it was caused by millions of unreported COVID-19 deaths.

Do these figures show that millions of Chinese people have been killed by COVID-19?

  • 4
    -1: I'm finding this speculation hard to take seriously. (Oh, 19 million users lost we can dismiss, but 21 million? Clearly, the last 2 million are evidence of a mammoth conspiracy.)
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 29 '20 at 16:25
  • 4
    How does this work? Someone dies of COVID19, and their next of kin, in the midst of funeral arrangements and medical tests to see whether they have the disease as well, etc., makes sure to cancel their phone plan? Mar 29 '20 at 21:03
  • 10
    "If only 10 percent ...". I don't believe there is a claim here. Phrases like this are always a big signpost of unbridled speculation. Mar 30 '20 at 8:31
  • 2
    @JMac: Tang argues that even if only 10% of the cancellations are due to COVID-19 deaths, it is still a huge number. This is a flawed argument, because in that situation, it supposes that 90% (~19 million) of the cancellations can be explained by other, more prosaic explanations. If he accepts that, Occam's Razor suggests he should also consider that those other explanations account for 100% of the cancellations, and there is no conspiracy here.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 30 '20 at 14:17
  • 2
    @Oddthinking Your wording seemed to be very confusing to get that point across. It's not really saying you can dismiss the 19 million users. I do agree that assuming 10% (or any %) of those users died isn't justified. But your wording made it seem like the author would dismiss it if there were 19 million cancellations. But presumably the author would have assumed that it correlated with 1.9 million deaths; not that the final 2 million were significant. I just found that wording very confusing.
    – JMac
    Mar 30 '20 at 14:25

Wrong assumptions can lead to wrong conclusions.

that probably these closed numbers belonged to the people who died

That assumes that each closed number belonged to one person (or maybe two numbers per person).

In China there exists (existed?) what are called "Click farms".

inside click farm

As per Yahoo Finance there can be hundreds of phones in one such Click Farm.

From a Core77 report on one Farm seized by the goverment in Thailand, we read

had less than 500 phones--but rotated nearly 350,000 SIM cards between them

Now, due to quarantine and lack of ease of movements, those farms stopped working.

As you can see from the photos in the Core77 article, the bus factor was usually 1. So it didn't take much to halt their operation.

Paying to keep such amount of numbers active make no sense. Especially if the market is not in the mind to pay for such activity and picking it up again is just a matter of buying cheap SIM cards again.

There are many better explanations as to why millions of phone numbers became inactive than "the users are dead". Especially when, I assume, cancelling a phone plan is the last thing on a family's mind when one of their members dies.

  • Please provide some references to support your claims.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 30 '20 at 13:06
  • Please assume we don't "know" about them, and we certainly don't know if they would account for millions of phones.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 30 '20 at 13:07

possibly attributed to cover up of deaths?

No, because as the Bloomberg article you link to points out, the likely explanation is that people are canceling extra phone plans. They may no longer be able to use extra phones due to changing economic conditions or travel restrictions.

  • 1
    With an absolute answer of "No", your evidence and reasoning is weak. How does that even rule out the possiblity at all?
    – y chung
    Mar 31 '20 at 0:59

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