Covid-19 misinformation

Published March 31, 2020

AS the fight against Covid-19 rages on across countries, a second crucial battle must be simultaneously fought to end another menacing phenomenon: misinformation.

At a time when fear and panic stemming from the virus are on the rise, the sheer volume of information and ‘news’ being shared about the infection is reaching unprecedented heights. Mobile phone and social media users are being constantly bombarded with misinformation, and the vast number of people sharing unverified claims is compounding the issue.

These claims, which eventually circulate as mass forwarded messages on WhatsApp, range from incorrect and misleading information on the origin of the virus to its symptoms and so-called cures. There is a potential danger in falling for these unscientific cures. In Iran, where alcohol is illegal, 44 people died and hundreds were hospitalised after drinking homemade booze as advised by such messages.

In Pakistan, these messages have included harmless home remedies like drinking garlic water but also dangerous advice such as encouraging people to try ‘blowing hot air from a hair dryer through your nostrils’. This newspaper recently fact-checked a fake notification that was doing the rounds on social media, claiming that Pakistan’s health ministry had suggested that a prevention method was to keep one’s throat moist.

WHO has rightly declared this as an ‘infodemic’ — an excessive amount of information which makes the solution to a problem more difficult. Citizens must address their fears and queries by using legitimate sources of information. For global updates, the most reliable source of information is WHO. In Pakistan, people looking for accurate information must turn to the government and trusted news sources — while also being wary of ‘fake news’ ie photoshopped images which falsely purport to belong to an organisation.

In this crisis, it is the responsibility of citizens to exercise caution and be more discerning about the information they pass on. If the ‘news’ is not available on official channels and if one is not sure about its veracity or source, it is not worth sharing.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2020

Opinion

Editorial

Iran’s counterstrike
Updated 15 Apr, 2024

Iran’s counterstrike

Israel, by attacking Iran’s diplomatic facilities and violating Syrian airspace, is largely responsible for this dangerous situation.
Opposition alliance
15 Apr, 2024

Opposition alliance

AFTER the customary Ramazan interlude, political activity has resumed as usual. A ‘grand’ opposition alliance ...
On the margins
15 Apr, 2024

On the margins

IT appears that we are bent upon taking the majoritarian path. Thus, the promise of respect and equality for the...
Noshki killings
Updated 14 Apr, 2024

Noshki killings

It must be asked why Baloch separatists continue to target civilians as well as security men despite large deployment.
Upholding the law
14 Apr, 2024

Upholding the law

THE recent discord in Bahawalnagar offers a chance to reflect on the sanctity of the law and its enforcement across...
Tragic travels
14 Apr, 2024

Tragic travels

FOR those embarking on road and boat journeys, the probability of fatal accidents has seen a steady rise. The recent...