Infodemic during COVID pandemic

Since the beginning of COVID-19, people have been emotionally and financially stressed, the whole world has suffered from various disasters, and there has been a lack of PPE kits and (intensive care) beds in hospitals. Yet there are some people who are using this time to spread fake news.

I understand that in these digital times, coming across fake news is not new, and we have all experienced this at one point in time. Many false stories are shared without any quality or background checking. I am quite surprised to learn that during this time where the whole world is suffering, some people are putting efforts in spreading disinformation just for their own advantages, whether it be political or economic.

All this makes this pandemic even harder and jeopardizes the sustainability and accessibility of the global health system.

Every day we come across dozens of articles, messages, and mails; some are true, and some are not. Therefore, it leaves us in confusion of what to trust, and what not. It can also affect people’s mental health.

So, what exactly is an Infodemic?

WHO has defined it and I may quote ‘an overabundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it’.

(Source: WHO, April, 2020)

Since every other person has digital technology in their hands, fake news spread in a matter of seconds. Some fake news during COVID19 which I heard or read include:

  • Drinking cow urine will helps killing the virus, which led to a number of deaths in India
  • Eating garlic or onion kills the virus
  • The virus dies in cold weather or low temperatures
  • The virus only affects old people
  • Taking a hot bath prevents COVID-19

I am sure that you have also come across some of the above-mentioned myths during these times.

So, how we can help to avoid this Infodemic during COVID-19?

Here are some basic tips which I usually follow whenever I come across with suspicious information:

  • First rule is don’t believe everything you see on Internet. Do not just read headlines and share. Read the story carefully, examine each line and then decide whether you should share it or not
  • Real news usually appear in more than one source. Check if you find the same information on other sources as well
  • Only trust government or official websites. For example, WHO or websites managed by your local government official bodies
  • Always do a background check whenever you see a message or link. Confirm the sources especially for WhatsApp or Facebook. Always examine if the news is relevant to current events
  • Try to Identify conspiracy theories. If you think it can be a fake news, avoid sharing it

Whenever you share something next time, make sure the information is reliable and true. Do not get trapped in the cycle of misinformation. Report wherever possible.

by Ankita Rana