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India battling between COVID-19 pandemic and fake news

Hundreds of people got infected in India due to coronavirus, many took to the streets and trying to reach their homes as the fake news around making it difficult for them. This fake news is not only dangerous but sometimes life taking too. In the absence of a vaccine yet, social media is showing the label and bottle of vaccine to combat COVID-19, forwards are of full of theories on how to combat the deadly COVID-19. India is facing an epidemic of fake news and misinformation about the coronavirus. Fake news spreads faster and more easily through the internet, social media and instant messaging apps. These messages may contain useless, incorrect or even harmful information and advice, which can hamper the public health response and add to social disorder and division. Fake news may also be shared by trusted friends and family, including those who are doctors and nurses. They might not have read the full story before sharing or just glanced over it. Before you decide to share, make sure to read stories properly and follow some checks to determine the accuracy.

There were many posts in circulation stating that the garlic as a medicine for COVID-19 (there is no cure for COVID-19 till now, only garlic can improve the immunity which helps you to fight against the virus), another fake information is that coronavirus will not survive in hot climate (the virus can survive plastic and metal surface for a longer period and it can survive in 39.8 degree Celsius and humidity 40%, the virus can’t survive when the temperature increases and humidity decreases). Just few days ago, a group of people in Iran drank methyl alcohol thinking it is going to keep the coronavirus away. 480 of them died. Many threads on social media emerged during this time, some saying that soap doesn’t actually kill the coronavirus. Fake symptoms, news of how China killed a hundred thousand people infected with coronavirus and other such things made a lot of rounds on my social media. A guy in Andhra Pradesh even killed himself after believing this fake news. If the story appears to claim a much higher level of certainty in its advice and arguments than other stories, this is questionable. People will be seeking certainty in a time of high uncertainty, anxiety and panic.

On Saturday (March 21), Tamil film superstar Rajinikanth posted a video on Twitter asking Indians to follow Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a nationwide curfew the following day. The actor, with more than 5.7 million followers on Twitter, added: “India is currently in Stage 2. If people don’t contract the virus which lives outside in public spaces frequented by people for 12-14 hours, we can stop it from going to Stage 3.” A viral social media post claims that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has suggested men to shave facial hairs to prevent coronavirus. The viral post contains the link of an article which describes suggestions regarding the same along with a graphic. India Today Anti Fake News War Room (AFWA) has found that the viral claim is not true. CDC authorities have not told people to shave off beards and moustaches to avoid COVID-19. The central government launched a WhatsApp helpline for coronavirus queries this week. It has partnered with Google India to fish out fake news on search engine, Social media platforms have also partnered with WHO to regulate online content.

Amid the panic and fear for the coronavirus pandemic, the fake news and misinformation regarding it have also seen a spike on social media platforms. The Indian government has been trying all it can to put an end to it all through several methods. Now, the IT ministry has issued an advisory for social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more — to ensure effective and quick action against any online content spreading misinformation about online videos. However, social media platforms have already been collaborating with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to regulate online content.

Besides this, the Indian government also partnered with Google India. Under this, Google has customised India’s search page with the ‘Do The Five. Help stop coronavirus’ campaign. The mains search page also contains a link to the health ministry page, which highlights real-time data on the extent of impact in terms of positive cases, locations and deaths. The webpage also showcases other important issues on its website. Besides this, Google is also sending out push notifications to both Android and iOS users in India, highlighting important information in this regard. As per media reports, the government has also been in talks with Facebook to come up with similar solutions. Meanwhile, the government is said to be exploring all possible tech solutions to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. All social media companies are working closely on the issue but we want them to be particular about removing misinformation. We want them to promote authentic content and remove fake news.

Also Read:

COVID-19: A Biological War?

(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on [email protected])

Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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