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Fake News Rife on Social Media as Coronavirus Fears Spread



social media fake news

Thailand’s Anti-Fake News Centre has reported that over 75% of news reports on the coronavirus on Thai social media is fake. The anti- fake news center said most claims are totally baseless and fictitious.

The Digital Economy and Society Minister told the Thai media yesterday of the 43 widely circulated news items related to the coronavirus, 33 are totally baseless and fictitious. One completely distorts the truth, leaving only nine which are factually reliable.

To combat against fake news, the government yesterday held a meeting with related agencies and the private sector. Including an executive from social media platforms to discuss measures to curb the spread of fake news.

Several items of fake news are blatantly wrong, the anti-fake news center reports. Above all reports of Chinese President Xi Jinping ordering soldiers execute citizens who refuse to cooperate with the government’s outbreak control measures. Also fear-mongering in which clips showing a tourist collapsing at Suvarnabhumi airport went viral.
Even more healthcare tips about a herbal concoction to kill the coronavirus.

And also bogus science which claimed the virus can be transmitted by simply looking into the eyes of an infected person.

Fake news spreading worldwide on social media

Fake claims over the coronavirus haven’t been limited just to Thailand. Social media users worldwide have been sharing fake news stories, videos and memes about the coronavirus outbreak.

Rumors have gone into hyper-drive across platforms: they have stoked waves of Sinophobia and racism. Also blaming the outbreak on false claims that the Chinese have a regular habit of eating bats. A short-video sharing app, TikTok, has been particularly active, with numerous posts spreading misinformation.

One misleading video was viewed 2.4 million times before it was removed. Reactions to video still lingers on, showing how difficult it is to kill digital falsehoods. Other posts baselessly claimed that the virus was created by the government for population control.

The conspiracy group QAnon falsely claimed in a video that the virus’ was created and backed by Bill Gates. Needless to say, such falsehoods travel far.

Alarmist statistics have also been spreading — a tweet with over 140,000 “likes” predicted 65 million deaths. A debunked claim — along with false remedies, prophylactics and cures. Some posts also recommend drinking bleach. Others peddle falsehoods about the benefits of cannabis, homeopathy and air purifiers.

Virality is assured when the misinformation jumps across social media platforms. A thread retweeted thousands of times by a YouTube conspiracist suggests the coronavirus was developed for use as a vaccine.

It’s now found another new life on Facebook, Bloomberg reports.

Facebook using third party fact checkers

In China, doctors and front line workers have been censored by authorities. Some front line reports were reportedly being taken down on WeChat. The Chinese state media even circulated a fake image of a building that it claimed was a hospital built in 16 hours.

Other platforms have been more proactive. TikTok has removed some coronavirus misinformation and WeChat claims to have done the same. (They may find this easier because they have a history of censorship.)

The biggest and most pleasant surprise is Facebook. Its past strategy favored labeling content as misleading rather than removing it. This time, it is limiting the distribution of posts rated false by third-party fact-checkers. Also using the News Feed to steer users to authoritative sites.

It is also giving free advertising credits to organizations running coronavirus education campaigns. Even more Facebook has added a resource page for spotting fake news claims. However, the biggest change at Facebook is its announcement that it would remove content from Facebook and block or restrict hashtags on Instagram that spread coronavirus misinformation.

Source: Bloomberg, The Nation


Social Media Rumors and fake news about Coronavirus

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