• Ankuran Dutta

#CheckTheFake -6: WHO info on #COVID19 buried under ‘Fake letters’


April 6, 2020:

Infodemics appears in the form of ‘fake letters’ this time purporting to share different country’s and personalities’ views on #COVID19.

As a result, WHO’s official reports and information on #COVID19 is increasingly losing its trace under these ‘fake letters’, which are widely shared through internet during this pandemic.

A number of ‘fake letters’ from Wuhan city in China, countries like France and Italy, from the Presidents of different countries and personalities even in the name of Bill Gates have overshadowed the social media platforms by misinforming and misleading the people.

The content of these letters mostly starts from suggesting the measures for prevention and cure for novel coronavirus to overall explanation of this pandemic; while some carries a propaganda against a particular country in spreading the virus and some highlights the superstitious beliefs behind the cause of this pandemic.

An open fake letter entitled “What is the Corona/Covid-19 Really Teaching us?” circulated via email and WhatsApp group in the name of Bill Gates in March ending claimed to show the Microsoft founder believes there is “a spiritual purpose behind everything that happens” – including the disease.

It also describes the virus as “the great corrector … sent to remind us of the important lessons that we seem to have forgotten”.

While most of these fake messages are also forwarded as a spam mail in the address of Center for Disease Control and Prevention of United States, Ministry of Health Emergency from China, etc. Moreover, thousands of coronavirus-related websites are created daily by cybercriminals for phishing attacks, distribute malware-laced files, or for financial fraud, for tricking users into paying for fake #COVID19 cures, supplements, or vaccines.

In this infodemic outbreak, it is obvious that information on #COVID19 from official sites like WHO, CDC, MoHF, etc get buried; even though people believe that most of the #COVID19 stuffs appearing on social media is ‘fake’. They avoid cross-checks and forward it for the purpose of entertainment or with an intention to spread rumors.

As per a recent survey conducted amid the lockdown from March 28 to April 4 among 1200 people by the Mass Communication department of Nagpur's Rashtrasant Tukoji Maharaj University, 50 to 80 per cent of coronavirus-related information or news appearing on social media is 'fake'. Most of the people have been relying on epapers during these days escalating the use of digital news media by 5.8 per cent and television viewership by a little over 8 per cent (The New India Express).

Therefore, government of various countries including India have formed a strict regulation of citing official sites on information of #COVID19 by the news outlets. If not directly, people may be able to get the official information indirectly from these news agencies.

#CheckTheFake on #COVID19

FAKE: “Ministry of health’s emergency notification to the public that the Coronavirus influenza outbreaks this time is very serious & fatal. There is no cure once you are infected. Its spreading from China to various countries.

Prevention method is to keep your throat moist, do not let your throat dry up. Thus, do not hold your thirst because once your membrane in your throat is dried, the virus will invade into your body within 10 mins. Drink 50-80cc warm water, 30-50cc for kids, according to age. Every time u feel your throat is dry, do not wait, keep water in hand. Do not drink plenty at one time as it doesn’t help, instead continue to keep throat moist” (A Fake Letter).

FACT: First of all, the letter does not have the full information of which country the ‘Ministry of health’s emergency’ belongs to. Secondly, no ministry of health of any countries in the world have listed advisories about regular and minimum amount of water intake on its website as a prevention of #COVID19.

In fact, the World Health Organization Philippines directly addressed whether drinking water protects against #COVID19 in a tweet – “While staying hydrated by drinking water is important for overall health, it does not prevent coronavirus infection,” WHO tweeted on February 8.

#CheckTheFake is a movement against #Infodemic in this crisis, initiated by Dr Anamika Ray Memorial Trust #ARMT (www.armt.in) in collaboration with The Assam Tribune and Northeast Now (www.nenow.in) to create awareness on #fakenews on #Coronavirus and improve media literacy through #Cartoons. ARMT Research

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