Professor Who Allegedly Died of COVID-19 Doesn't Exist

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday August 4, 2020

BethAnn McLaughlin
BethAnn McLaughlin  (Source:Wiki/Twitter)

A Twitter account for @sciencing_bi — a queer, Indigenous professor at Arizona State University who had allegedly "died from COVID-19" on Friday — is no longer active because, as Vice reports, it was found to be "an elaborate catfishing hoax."

Allegedly, over the last several months, tweets from the account complained about being compelled to teach on campus in April as the pandemic escalated. Apparently, the account also attempted to humanize the non-existent person, as Vice reports, by tweeting "extensively about social justice, the professor's Indigenous heritage as a member of the Hopi tribe, the LGBTQ experience in academia, and their battle with COVID-19."

The catfishing hoax was revealed over the weekend as academics began to piece together inaccuracies in the story. An Arizona State University spokesperson stated:

"Unfortunately, this appears to be a hoax. We have been looking into this since this weekend and cannot verify any connection with the university... We have been in touch with several deans and faculty members and no one can identify the account or who might be behind it. Some of the past commentary this person posted is questionable, such as teaching in April. ASU went fully remote in March. The person also mentioned salary reductions. We have not implemented any salary reductions here... We also have had no one, such as a family member or friend, report a death to anyone at the university."

Also, the Office of the Chairman of the Hopi Tribe reported being unaware of "a member who worked as a professor at ASU who had recently died of COVID-19."

As evidence began to mount, an extensive series of tweets by a fellow academic, BethAnn McLaughlin, came under scrutiny and her account was also suspended by twitter. While there appears to be no evidence connecting McLaughlin to the @sciencing_bi account, both were suspended in violation of twitter's spam and platform manipulation policies, Vice reports.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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