According to the World Health Organization, the phenomenon of spreading misinformation associated with the emerging coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, resulting from mixing facts and spreading rumors and fake news, is no less dangerous than the virus itself. The WHO called it the "Information Pandemic".
Confusion and panic
The manifestations of this information pandemic are rumors, myths and exaggerated facts, which fuel new forms of xenophobia. Many people of Chinese or East Asian origins, for example, have become insulted, assaulted or denied services, and religious groups, minorities and elites are blamed online.
Internet users who share videos and images that make fun of the virus, even without any harmful intention, risk spreading the wrong information, causing panic and confusion among people who do not know who to trust and who are more vulnerable to tampering and cyber crime.
Another source of confusion is the position of the Chinese authorities. Western governments, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have questioned the Chinese government's reports on the origin of the virus and the true extent of the epidemic within China.
Although Beijing denies hiding anything, the disappearance of Chinese whistle-blowers fueled speculation, whether true or not.
Globally, many measures have been taken to limit the circulation of fake news. Asian countries have not hesitated to apply criminal prosecutions related to Covid-19 disease.
In the Canadian province of Quebec, fact-finding services such as the rumor detector were provided to the public. The World Health Organization uses its existing network, "EPI-WIN", to track misinformation in several languages.
Technology giants were also asked to filter out false news and promote information from reliable sources. Google is working to remove misleading information about the Kwona virus from YouTube, Google Maps and development platforms such as "Google Play" and in advertisements.
Twitter, among other things, checks accounts that are reliable sources of information about Covid-19, and monitors conversations to ensure that the keywords searched for on the virus provide access to reliable information.
The World Health Organization has also launched a health alert on WhatsApp and ChatBot on Facebook Messenger, to provide accurate information about the virus.
And the United Nations spares no effort in processing false information and dealing with cyber fraudsters who exploit the crisis.
The United Nations Development Program supports the CoronaVirusFactsAlliance #, which brings together more than 100 fact-finding auditors from more than 45 countries.
The pandemic of misinformation is as real as it is with Covid-19, so we must take every precaution to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
And if it isn't stopped quickly, fake news that is shared on social media will quickly become popular and can affect a large number of users.
It is true that the invisible corona virus is difficult to control, which sometimes causes no symptoms. However, social spacing, health measures and wearing masks seem to be the best way to limit its spread at the present time, and vigilance is also one of the best ways to eliminate false and fake news.
It only takes a few clicks to uncover wrong information. For reliable information, reference can be made to a number of sources such as "Covid 19 Poynter", Covid-19 Alert on Google and the WHO Information Platform online.
Although verification of information and the practice of rational discussion are necessary to combat the pandemic of information accompanying Covid-19, this has its harmful effects.
A study conducted on the Zika virus showed that attempts to get rid of misleading information did not reduce misconceptions about the virus, but rather reduced people's confidence in accurate information related to the epidemic of the World Health Organization.
One of the explanations for this is that some people cling to simple interpretations rather than deciphering complex information in a chaotic environment, where there is little real information available about the sources of the new threat and how to protect from it.
But working against false information about this disease is everyone's responsibility. Here are five measures to prevent misinformation from spreading:
- Be alert and critical when looking at social media.
- Do not leave wrong information on your web page, ask the person who shared it politely to remove it.
- Report wrong information to platform administrators.
- When in doubt, take some time to verify the information you share with others.
- Make your voice louder than people who share false information.