Hoax, Lies, and Videotape

Fighting an “Infodemic” on Social Media

Picture of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization

“We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic. Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus, and is just as dangerous.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization Director-General spoke these words on Februay 15, 2020 at the Munich Security Conference, a month prior to COVID-19 being declared a pandemic. At the time, COVID-19 was considered a PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern) with China having 66,000 Coronavirus cases and only 505 cases in the rest of the world. He praised China for buying the world time to prepare but warned the international community about the looming threat to healthcare workers, access to personal protective equipment, the havoc this virus could cause on health systems and how rumours would hamper response. To counter the spread of COVID-19 misinformation, the World Health Organization turned to assistance from social media companies.

News reports about COVID-19 bombards us every day, adding to anxiety that we may already be experiencing due to isolation. Social Media is a great tool for connecting people during this crisis, but as mentioned in a previous post, the threat of sharing misinformation can be just as dangerous.

Picture of various social media applications on a smartphone
Photo courtesy of Pexels.com/@Pixabay

Along with donating millions of dollars to health and economic relief efforts, companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google, among others, are investing in the news industry and in fact-checking. The result is a crackdown to remove false or misleading information about COVID-19 on their apps. Links to false cures and hoaxes have been (or are in the process of being) blocked. Instead, platforms are providing valuable and accurate information to their customers (click on the links for more information):

  • Google users will find information on education and prevention and redirects to the local resources
  • Along with offering content from experts and support groups, Reddit has bookmarked a list of free ebooks and audiobooks for those in isolation
  • Both Microsoft and LinkedIN offer support for remote learning and working
  • YouTube is producing video health panels as part of their #StayHome campaign
  • Facebook‘s newly launched Community Help forum is for people to find or share support in their community (a grassroots neighbours-helping-neighbours initiative)

As Dr. Ghebreyesus concluded in that speech, “In our fractured and divided world, health is one of the few areas in which international cooperation offers the opportunity for countries to work together for a common cause. This is a time for facts, not fear. This is a time for rationality, not rumours. This is a time for solidarity, not stigma.

Pick a social media platform of your choice, search for the COVID-19 content posted by its staff and share this information with a friend or on your timeline. #AllinThisTogether #StayAtHome #StaySafe

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Facebook Hoax, Lies and Videotape. How @Facebook and other social media are fighting the COVID-19 ‘infodemic’. Read more at https://bit.ly/2JFT4oR

Twitter Hoax, Lies and Videotape. How @Twitter is fighting the #COVID19 ‘infodemic’. Read more at https://bit.ly/2JFT4oR #FakeNews

4 thoughts on “Hoax, Lies, and Videotape

  1. Hi Gail!

    As someone who takes the COVID-19 crisis seriously, I have definitely noticed the issues between the positives of everyone having access to more information via all of these social networks and the negatives of how much false information is out there. I have noticed a new feature I like, where sometimes when someone has posted an article or shares a link to something, there is a smaller automatic post underneath that shares whether the information in the article has been fact checked and if so, whether it was false or true information. Not everyone out there has the expertise in various areas to read something and automatically know whether it’s accurate. I think most of us are in that category, frankly.
    It’s nice to see the social media platforms like Google, Facebook and other tech companies trying to do their part to help stem the false information. They really NEED to get involved or it will never stop. Great post and obviously extremely relevant at the moment!

    • Thanks for your comments, Cara.
      With COVID-19 reports updated throughout the day, it’s tough to know if something that was written (or released) yesterday is still relevant today.
      Interesting times.
      We’ll all learn a lot from this experience when we’re on the ‘flip side’

  2. Great article Gail!

    It’s truly amazing to see how businesses, in general, are adjusting to the COVID-19 epidemic to seemingly help in countering its spread. I don’t doubt though that a lot of it is involved in PR; imagine if Facebook or Google decided to do nothing about the pandemic, it would be a nightmare. This is really a once-in-a-lifetime experience as we see how modern technology (particularly social media) reacts to these world-wide crises’.

  3. Yes, it’s encouraging to see social media platforms ‘step up’ and take some of the responsibility for what is shared on their platforms. Now, we just have to work on the politicians.

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