How and why fake information about coronavirus on social media is so harmful

Indica News Bureau

Fake news is a big problem for the media and even more for social media. Facebook and Twitter are in a new kind of problem with the outbreak of the coronavirus. Fake news related to the Covid-19 is really too much to handle for Twitter and Facebook. All sorts of misinformation and claims, medicine etc is being circulated round the clock and it’s literally unmanageable for these social media giants. 


Fake information about coronavirus on social media

Rumors and misinformation related to the virus is on an all time high. Sharing news or claims related to various aspects of coronavirus is very high and many people are sharing it on the social media without any concerns about the authenticity of the news or the claims. Some may be doing deliberately as a sales pitch which is being passed on as authentic information on social media. In some cases one cannot blame the users as it’s really very difficult to differentiate between authentic and fake information especially when the presentation of fake information is really good. So how to know that the news related to coronavirus is authentic or not. One sure way is to know the origin of the news. If it’s coming from ICMR or a credible institution, it is likely to be authentic information related to Covid-19.


Why inaccurate information about Covid-19 is so prevalent on social media

One of the prime reasons that fake news is easily distributed on social media is to do with the algorithms of these social media companies which appeal to people’s habits, interests and likability and not about the accuracy of the information. This would require Facebook and Twitter to change algorithms to fit the accuracy of information and that is a big step as it is more or less likely to hamper the business prospects of these companies.


How Facebook can control inaccurate information sharing about coronavirus

Social media companies need to remind their audiences about the accuracy of information before they share it among their friends and followers. If people are reminded about what they are sharing, they are more likely to consider the information accuracy before sharing it.


Consequences of misinformation about coronavirus

The misinformation about the novel coronavirus among people has serious consequences and a great impact on their well-being. False reports related to the effective treatment of the coronavirus has been published on digital media as well as on social sites and this has not helped people looking for authentic information about the virus.  

Example: In Iran it was circulated that ingesting methanol is a sure cure for the coronavirus disease but it actually led to reportedly 300 deaths. 

Dr. Jason McKnight, who is an assistant clinical professor at Texas A&M University says that fake information has an immediate impact much before any risks from coronavirus.  Circulating unproven treatments of coronavirus has an immediate health risk and people sharing such information are really harming gullible people. 

Facebook is doing its bit to bring the right information to people about coronavirus. It has placed authoritative coronavirus information at the top of news feeds. It is making more efforts to remove harmful information related to the deadly virus.