Fake news, the other big pandemic

Despite not being as lethal as the disease itself, fake news have become another big pandemic spread all around the world at a high speed contagion rate, and, most surprisingly, with a high degree of credibility.

Fake news, or hoaxes are the other big virus that has whipped the planet since the Covid-19 pandemic has been declared. A series of unproven medicines supposed to alleviate the consequences of the virus, presumed experts offering advice to lower the contagion rates, conspiracy theories to find the individuals guilty for it… With billions of people locked in their houses, social media have become a perfect ground for the development of alarmism, at a society whipped by fear, uncertainty, and bewilderment. The general expectation to understand a little bit better the task ahead of us and to get some ways to protect ourselves has allowed those hoaxes to spread with the same speed than the contagion of the virus. A situation that has placed everyone’s safety and health at risk.

This deficit in the quality of the information is known as “infodemic”, a new expression coined at during this pandemic. Plenty websites have been created to help detect hundreds of fake news that have spread through social media or WhatsApp, as well as the premises and evidence that denies them.

The uncontrolled risk of those fake news has compelled some international organizations to act against the virus of misinformation. Among those efforts, the World Health Organization has created a website that allows to destroy those myths that go around the social media, while some National Governments have put in place campaigns that share information from trustful official sources, such as public organizations, scientific societies, health authorities and media, even though the latter ones have also spread had some flawed news.

The main issue is not only that that information is primarily composed of lies, but also what is behind them: to provoke confusion, generate discomfort, to impact people’s behavior, to distract people’s attention, to steal money or personal data… All causes for us to test the responsibility we all have as citizens to get proper information before sharing it with someone else.

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