Facing an infodemic graphic

Misinformation is hampering authorities' ability to fight the novel coronavirus.

COVID-19 has spread around the world and forced countries to take drastic measures to stop the disease. That’s hard enough, but the flurry of misinformation regarding the novel coronavirus presents another challenge. COVID-19 has caused a storm of panic and deception. Not only is the world facing a pandemic, but we’re suffering from an infodemic as well.

The surge of misinformation regarding COVID-19 has distorted the public’s view of the novel coronavirus, hurting our ability to stop the pandemic. The coronavirus panic led to radical conspiracy theories, racial accusations, fake cures and false cases to spread like wildfire through huge social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Some criminals have even exploited the situation by creating fake accounts and hacking into devices and stealing information.

Worse than the false cases are the fake cures circulating the internet and social media. The slew of misinformation and distrust of Big Pharma has led to influencers and conspiracy accounts spreading fake cures to the public. The fake cures are the result of extreme views of people distrustful of science.

One of the more dangerous cures is the “miracle mineral supplement,” which contains a bleaching agent that can make people incredibly ill. While it’s been promoted long before the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s gained new attention during this pandemic.

Another false cure is the Silver Solution promoted by televangelist Jim Bakker. The state of Missouri has since filed a suit against Bakker for promoting a fake COVID-19 cure.

Even some public officials are promoting false cures. For example, in Florida, Okeechobee county commissioner Bryant Culpepper said blowing a hair dryer up your nose will kill all the viruses in your nose. The spread of misinformation could confuse the public and lead desperate people to make dangerous decisions.

Of all the sources of fake news about the pandemic, perhaps the most interesting is President Donald Trump. The president has tried to downplay the severity of the situation with multiple misinformed statements such as claiming that the novel coronavirus is no worse than the seasonal flu and that the virus had been contained within the United States.

Unfortunately, Trump’s previous claims resonated with his supporters, causing them to be less worried about the virus. As the situation has progressed, Trump has acknowledged that Americans should be prepared, but the delayed reaction has taken its toll.

The spread of false information has become so severe that the World Health Organization has teamed up with social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and Google to tackle the infodemic by reducing fake news and redirecting users to WHO content about COVID-19.

Despite doing their utmost to remove false accounts and incorrect information regarding COVID-19, misinformation continues to overwhelm the sites. Online panic and hysteria have driven hand sanitizer and toilet paper hoarding, and it’s jeopardizing authorities’ ability to control the situation.

As America and the rest of the world continue to try to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, it’s our social responsibility to report fake information and fact check sources. We already have one pandemic on our hands. We don’t need to deal with another one.

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