Initiatives to eliminate misinformation: Functional or flawed?
Misinformation pertaining to the coronavirus is proliferating and circulating through pockets of society. The online platform NewsGuard has developed a Coronavirus Misinformation Tracking center to document the scope of the shaky or flawed reporting. Incorrect information contributes to insufficient diagnoses, and shoddy approaches to treatment.
Facebook has pledged to eradicate user-posted information that could pose a threat to consumers. “We’re focusing on claims that are designed to discourage treatment or taking appropriate precautions. This includes claims related to false cures or prevention methods — like drinking bleach cures the coronavirus — or claims that create confusion about health resources that are available,” states Facebook’s Kang-Xing Jin, Head of Health.
In 2018, a study conducted by MIT found that “false news spreads more rapidly on the social network Twitter than does real news,” likely on account of the strong emotions that contrived articles inspire.
In theory, political agendas could underlie the dissemination of misinformation. “Countries that are antagonistic toward China could try to hijack the conversation in the hopes of creating chaos and eroding trust in the authorities,” states Harvard’s Belfer Center Security and Global Health Project’s Research Director, Dr. Margaret Bourdeaux.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has a team of professionals dedicated to promoting accurate information over hype and half-truths. The team organizes conference calls with multinational employers, and offers information related to employee concerns. For example, many employees wonder ‘What’s the level of risk associated with attending a global conference, given where we are with the coronavirus?’
However, arguably, sharing information this way does not reach the most vulnerable when it comes to believing lies; those with lower levels of education, who often feel disenfranchised from mainstream news outlets.
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