As Covid-19 spreads, fake news on the virus rises

PETALING JAYA: As Covid-19 cases climb globally, fake news about the coronavirus are also increasing, says the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN).

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IFCN said at least 20 cases of “false positives” (fake news claiming new cases) were found between Feb 27 and March 2 by the #CoronaVirusFacts and #DatosCoronaVirus alliance, a group consisting of 91 fact-checkers from 40 countries across the world, an article on Poynter reported.

IFCN associate director Cristina Tardaguila pointed out that fake news sometimes led to tragic consequences, such as an incident reported in India in February.

In the incident in Chittoor, a 50-year-old man, a father of three, hanged himself after falsely believing he had contracted Covid-19, said Tardaguila.

The man, who had fallen ill, was convinced he had Covid-19 after watching clips online, including fake clips of people collapsing randomly and being forced into government medical facilities against their will, she said quoting the Times of India.

Fake news, said Tardaguila, were especially prevalent in Spain, Italy, Argentina, Colombia, India and the United Kingdom.

“Those who create fake news sought to manipulate documents and images, making people believe the information comes from serious entities or from well-known media sources,” she added.

The Vatican too has been targetted in fake news, as “reports” of Pope Francis being infected with Covid-19 were shared on social media, she said.

The “news”, she added, turned out to be false.

She said Laura Del Río, who coordinates the team of fact-checkers at Maldito Bulo, in Madrid, identified two methods that the fake news creators used to deceive people.

“They manipulate images or modify the HTML code of a certain website to change the headline of a story about the new coronavirus,” Del Rio said in an interview with IFCN.

Tardaguila said that those wanting to fact-check information they received on Covid-19 could do so on social media channels through two hashtags, #CoronaVirusFacts and #DatosCoronaVirus.

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