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WHO fights the spread of abusive coronavirus rumors
The novel corona virus is a biological weapon that is being deliberately spread. Infection can be cured with garlic. These and numerous other conspiracies and fake news are currently circulating. The World Health Organization (WHO) is now fighting absurd rumors related to the virus.
As if global action against the spread of the new Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus was not enough, the World Health Organization (WHO) is fighting on a second front: the mass distribution of abusive rumors.
Wrong information and harmful advice
Conspiracy theories about the origin and distribution of Sars-CoV-2 and the promotion of dubious protection and remedies are not only annoying. "Incorrect information about epidemics with infectious diseases can make the outbreaks worse," writes Paul Hunter.
The conclusion of his studies at the University of East Anglia in England: "It can save lives by preventing the spread of incorrect information and harmful advice on social media."
The corona virus, which can trigger the new lung disease Covid-19, is a biological weapon and comes down to people in deliberately spreading clouds of infection, is one of the most abusive rumors on social media.
Or: The Bill-and-Melinda-Gates Foundation did it, probably to somehow benefit from the production of vaccine. In India, scientists even rioted about components of the virus that were said to be similar to the AIDS virus, HIV, and could not be in the mood of nature - in other words, added by human hands. The study has since been withdrawn.
Fake news spreads faster than the virus
"We are concerned about the high number of rumors and misinformation that hinder our use," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the Munich security conference at the weekend.
“We are not only fighting an epidemic, but also an infodemic. Fake news spreads faster and easier than this virus, and it's just as dangerous. ”
The doctor Hunter writes that incorrect information means that people protect themselves less and take greater risks. False information from the anti-vaccination lobby is partly responsible for the worldwide increase in measles infections.
Other studies have shown the consequences of rumors during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014: Fears were stirred up online that made people order protective suits on the same website - only they were not good as protection against infection.
At the WHO, a team takes care of countering false information on social media immediately. The UN agency is active on Twitter and elsewhere with graphs. For example, on recipes according to which eight cloves of garlic in seven cups of water can cure an infection. Although garlic is healthy, there is no evidence that it protects against coronavirus infection, the WHO counters.
"Do you kill the virus if you sprinkle alcohol or chlorine all over your body?" No, the WHO writes. This could disinfect tables and the like, but it does not prevent the virus from entering the body.
On dealing with stress during this time, the WHO wrote: "You can reduce excitement and worry if you and your family spend less time on media reports that worry you."
Cooperation with tech companies
WHO also goes directly to social media companies. Tedros mentioned, among others, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube. Those who google "coronavirus" get top results from WHO. If you search for “Coronavirus” on Pinterest, the first thing you get is the WHO graphs that clear up myths and fairy tales.
Facebook (FB) is also on board. Fact checkers are actively looking for rumors about the corona virus, FB health officer Kang-Xing Jin wrote in a blog post. "If you classify information as false, we limit the spread on Facebook and Instagram," he wrote.
The WHO also wants to persuade Amazon to provide buyers with accurate information about the virus when looking for facial masks, for example. The WHO believes that websites such as Airbnb, the broker for rooms, could also provide travel information. Talks are underway.
"We call on all governments, companies and media organizations to adequately alarm people, but without lighting the flames of hysteria," said Tedros in Munich. (ad, source: dpa)