Social media: Infodemic on coronavirus

Posted by: KSG-admin Post Date: April 3, 2020

Social media: Infodemic on coronavirus

Social media platforms have for the longest time been under increasing pressure to regulate misinformation hosted by their sites and the coronavirus pandemic seems to be stimulating the type of action critics have looked forward to for so long.

On March 16, in a joint industry statement, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube announced that they had joined forces to combat fraud and misinformation about the virus.

“We are working closely together on COVID-19 response efforts. We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world. We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe,” read the statement.

However, we also have to acknowledge that social media has been instrumental in responding to coronavirus related myths and misinformation. Journalists, public health experts, and users have combined efforts to provide corrections about dangerous misinformation shared. The circulation of such content through social media is so effective because we tend to pay more attention to information we receive through our networks of social contacts.

On February 2, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported massive infodemic stating the over-abundance of information either true or false, about the virus that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.

The Organization stated that high demand for timely and trustworthy information led to the introduction of a direct constant myth-busting hotline where the communication and social media teams have been monitoring and responding to misinformation through its website and social media pages.

Through the myth – busting hotline, WHO specifically declared as false certain claims that have circulated on social media about how to prevent the global health issue. These include claims that a person can tell if they have the virus simply by holding their breath; that drinking lots of water will protect against the virus and; that gargling using hot salty water will prevent infection. It is therefore important to be in the know of what the virus entails.

According to WHO, a person with the infectious coronavirus disease experiences mild to moderate respiratory illness and recovers without requiring special treatment. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Doctors believe that the virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, hence it is important to practice respiratory etiquette for example by coughing into a flexed elbow.

At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for corona. However, there are many ongoing clinical trials evaluating potential treatments. The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is to be well informed about the disease and how it spreads and to practice laid down preventive measures. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based sanitizer rub frequently and not touching your face.

As we strive to conquer this pandemic, it remains our responsibility to control the spread of unreliable information by staying updated with factual information.