Don't fret: This guitar pedal is not a coronavirus vaccine tracking chip

Anyone who believes this vaccine conspiracy theory is just being played.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
2 min read

There are plenty of weird conspiracy theories floating around the internet, but here's one that aims to hit an especially sour note. A diagram of a guitar pedal is being shared on social media with claims it's a brain-altering chip being injected into people who get the COVID-19 vaccine. The whole thing apparently started as a joke, but as 2021 lurches forward, it's also likely some people bought into it.

Software engineer Mario Fusco tweeted out an image of the diagram.

"Here in Italy people started to share this figure claiming that this is the diagram of the 5G chip that has been inserted in the COVID vaccine," he wrote. "In reality it is the electric circuit of a guitar pedal and I believe that putting it in the COVID vaccine has been an excellent idea."

Fusco did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Gizmodo tried to track down the image's origin and found a Romanian-language radio station's site sharing the image from a blurred-out Facebook user's page back in late December.

Naturally, some social media users rocked out with their replies.

"I demand that science inject ROCK AND ROLL into my veins," wrote one. Said another, "I suppose that for those who believe this, it could be placed in the brain cavity. Lot of space available apparently."

Guitar aficionados were quick to try to nail down the exact style of pedal shown. "Reddit is quite sure it's the Boss MT-2," wrote one Twitter user. A representative for Roland Corporation, parent company for Boss, did not immediately confirm this.

Fusco's tweet linked to an over-the-top explanation of the supposed chip that's almost gleefully goofy in its madness.  Naturally, 5G is mentioned, as are the Russians, and toxins. It's pretty clearly meant as a joke taken to such an extreme level no one would buy into it, especially since the image still includes identifiers like "treble," "bass," and "volume." 

But in a world that includes a conspiracy theory about time running backwards, even jokesters have to be careful. There's no shortage of gullible people for whom this might strike a chord.