Fighting COVID Misinformation
From fears over 5G to false claims of miracle cures, coronavirus myths have too often spread faster than the virus itself. Governments and platforms must take tougher action to tackle this ‘other’ threat to public health
In July, a video entitled ‘America’s frontline doctors’ was a runaway train racing across the major digital platforms. The video – hosted on ‘opinion’ site Breitbart’s Facebook page and spread by notorious influencers and conspiracy groups – claimed that face masks are dangerous, social distancing is unnecessary, and the drug hydroxychloroquine is a miracle cure for COVID-19. It racked up 20 million views in just 12 hours on Facebook alone, before it was ultimately removed by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for violating their guidelines.
A report by the campaigning network Avaaz reveals that global health misinformation has generated a staggering 3.8 billion views on Facebook in the past year. But the misinformation emanates from a relatively small number of high-traffic websites that pose as news outlets. The top 10 of these disinformation outlets garnered a staggering four times more views than content from the websites of 10 leading heath institutions including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During a severe global pandemic, this rapid dissemination of health misinformation is utterly unacceptable.