Pranks, spreading rumors for hype or a publicity stunt? Whatever it be, it can be dangerous for the public. As the outbreak is adding onto numbers, so is the misinformation and hoaxes on Facebook and Twitter making its way.
Freedom of speech and getting access to open media platforms have the dark aspect of the story as well. Being able to post and publish whatever one has to, is leading to the spread of fake facts. And this can worsen the situation of the epidemic, Coronavirus. Under normal circumstances, this might just give a hot debate to stay indulged in but during emergency situations, it can prove scary.
A similar situation has risen up for Coronavirus, a disease strengthening its roots in China and spreading around the borders, where misleading information is being spread. To screen the fake news, organizations are assigned to filter any post that challenges authenticity. Seven groups have partnered with Facebook for the same purpose. And they have detected several claims on Coronavirus to be untrue. Some of these also include treatments or vaccines for the outbreak. But on confirming from medical authorities, the piece of information is entirely false. As a control measure, Facebook is staying on toes to sense the inaccuracies and report such posts at the earliest.
Quoting Tony Romm, in the Washington Post, “Twitter, meanwhile, on Monday started steering U.S. users searching for coronavirus-related hashtags to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And Google-owned YouTube said its algorithm also prioritizes more credible sources. Still, a number of videos there — including one with more than 430,000 views — pushed dubious information about the origin of coronavirus and its means of transmission”
Another dimension in which the debunking can be a threat is to use it for personal intentions, either it is defaming the government or a weapon against medical authorities. Some even claim it to be a depopulation act, as mentioned in one of the 13,000 fake posts regarding Coronavirus. Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and other platforms like BuzzFeed are crowded with these unauthentic claims.
Early detected storm though, the posts haven’t gone much viral. Thanks to the screening organizations that have still saved millions to come under the umbrella of Quackery. The majority of these discussions are limited to closed groups.
Raymond Zhong says in New York Times, “But someone following the crisis through social media would see something else entirely: vitriolic comments and mocking memes about government officials, harrowing descriptions of untreated family members and images of hospital corridors loaded with patients, some of whom appear to be dead. The contrast is almost never so stark in China. The government usually keeps a tight grip on what is said, seen and heard about it. But the sheer amount of criticism — and the often clever ways in which critics dodge censors, such as by referring to Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, as “Trump” or by comparing the outbreak to the Chernobyl catastrophe — have made it difficult for Beijing to control the message.”