With the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak assuming alarming proportions worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a pandemic with more than 118,000 confirmed cases and 4,291 deaths in 114 countries. India’s count of infected people is rising daily with 62 people infected and no confirmed deaths so far from the disease.
Many countries have joined hands to fight against the deadly disease which was first detected in Wuhan, China in January this year. But the worst part about the outbreak is possibly the fact that it has become the world’s first true infodemic. The shorthand term, which was coined during the SARS outbreak, indicates a spread of unreliable information creating panic and fear worldwide.
From blog posts and videos about the coronavirus being created in a government lab in China to hacks that will cure one of the disease, conspiracy theories and political plots, there has been an overdose of mis-information about the virus. In India, people have supposedly stopped consuming poultry and Chinese cuisine and there have been reports of racist attacks against people of the North-East.
While social media platforms have been trying to limit the spread of the false information, there is a lot that we, as users, can do to fight the infodemic. According to reports, 4,000 new websites that mention coronavirus in their name have been created and nearly 3 % of them are malicious.
While Facebook and Twitter are removing misleading content, Instagram has also blocked certain hashtags. Content with false claims is being flagged by international health organizations and pulled off sites. Users are encouraged to check the official websites of World Health Organization, Centres for Disease Control for information or the health ministries of countries they reside in. Do not share unverified videos or facts online that could cause distress. Instead, check with the website of the World Health Organization, or the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Press Information Bureau (PIB) if you live in India.
You will be doing yourself and the world a favour.