Almost everyone reading this article has come across at least one piece of information that has later turned out to be false. The Coronavirus pandemic has been accompanied by what UNESCO is calling a ‘disinfonemic’.
From potent alcohol as a working ‘cure’ to COVID-19 to young people of African descent being immune to the virus, the variety of rumors range from seemingly believable and upright absurd.
Overshadowed by the wrath of the real pandemic, the disinfodemic has claimed several lives as a result of people believing ‘fake news’.
How Is Fake News Spreading? Why Do People Spread Fake News?
Keeping a strict check on the spread of information about a matter that is the global ‘talk of the town’ is no joke. While news agencies around the World are double-checking every fact that goes out, the practice of spreading false information is finding its wings in the realm of social media.
As a result of most of the world population being cooped up inside their homes, and present on platforms like Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (among many others), most of the falsehoods are being spread through these relatively uncontrolled platforms.
So why would someone spread false information that is costing lives? We’ve all seen notable personalities commit this mistake.
The objectives spreading misinformation, according to UNESCO’s leading expert on misinformation, Guy Berger, can be many, and may “include political aims, self-promotion, and attracting attention as part of a business model.”
He also notes that intent behind spreading misinformation is not always malicious, and some may be spreading falsehoods unknowingly. Some may even do it just to be the first one to talk about a potentially trending topic. However, being uncritical about spreading fake news can have catastrophic results, especially if it is done by notable individuals with significant social media following.
Berger says, “When disinformation is repeated and amplified, including by influential people, the grave danger is that information which is based on truth, ends up having an only marginal impact.”
What Is Being Done to Combat the Disinformation Pandemic? How Can You Do Your Part?
Governments and World organizations like WHO and UNESCO are working hard at ensuring the correct information about the current situation. WHO has added a mythbusters section to its website that debunks myths related to the pandemic on a daily basis.
A Facebook spokesperson, in an interview with Al Jaseera, also said that the company is taking “aggressive steps to stop misinformation and harmful content from spreading on our platform”.
He also said that the company is taking steps to reduce the virality of content being shared on its encrypted messaging platform Whatsapp.
YouTube has also reportedly banned all conspiracy videos linking the spread of Coronavirus through 5G signals.
As individuals, we also have a big part to play in stopping the spread of misinformation. Until we take this problem seriously and be extremely critical about the information we spread, the disinformation pandemic will continue to claim lives.
Verifying a factual piece of information takes less than a minute in the age of the Internet. Let’s take a pledge to only share verified information.