This article by Sara Pacia was published by EngageMedia, a non-profit organization for media, technology and culture. It is published in Global Voices within a shared content agreement.
Check out Global Voices' special coverage on the global impact of COVID-19.
As governments and healthcare workers around the world focus on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, they also have to deal with another related pandemic that affects all sectors of society: a massive “infodemic” just as widespread and damaging.
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes this infodemic as an “overabundance of information – sometimes rigorous and sometimes not – that makes it difficult to find reliable sources and reliable guidance when needed.”
Verified and timely information is more important than ever, but it is also more difficult to obtain. These are the ones in the global front row of this fight against disinformation about the coronavirus:
- International health organizations, such as the WHO, that have a page dedicated to debunk myths related to COVID
- Social media platforms that have released a collective statement in which they promise to remove questionable content
- Journalists and reporters, who disseminate resources about COVID-19 in multiple languages
- The International Verification Network that forms the alliance #CoronaVirusFacts/ #DataCoronaVirus
- Continent specific verifiers like EU vs Disinfo
- Initiatives to deny false data, such as Tencent's for WeChat
- Technologists who provide verification tools
Similar efforts are taking place in the Asia-Pacific region, where region-specific and country-specific groups resort to constant collective verification to combat the infodemic. In this article we want to introduce you to some.
For example, in the Philippines, journalists share their good practices on how to report rigorously on the pandemic. Internews also funded a series of three videos on how Philippine verification organization VERA Files fights the COVID-19 infodemic. For example, this video distorts inaccurate claims about bats and false reports about an alleged positive case of coronavirus in a Philippine province. Another video explains how to protect ourselves from COVID-19.
In India, there is a project similar to Internews, whose partners carry out ongoing verifications of the COVID-19 rumors.
In Malaysia, a huge amount of misinformation is disseminated on the internet, such as a viral video in which it is stated that the coronavirus makes affected people behave like zombies. Malaysian media organization The star It regularly denies such information about the pandemic.
In Indonesia, CekFakta is also at the forefront in denying false information about the virus, such as the myth that taking boiled garlic in water can cure the disease. This data verification collective collaborates with the Indonesian Online Media Association and the Alliance of Independent Journalists.
In Taiwan, the organization Taiwan Fact-Check Center has dedicated a project to disinformation related to COVID.
In Burma, the Ministry of Health and Sports offers the latest information on COVID-19 on its website to combat the countless misinformations and deceptions that are spreading in the country. The ministry is also trying to publicize through videos how medical personnel and the general public can be kept safe.
The BBC has also turned to the thangyat (traditional folk music) to teach Burmese citizens how to fight the infodemic. Furthermore, it supports similar efforts in Indonesia, India, Cambodia and Nepal.
While this infodemic – which can be considered the first real social media infodemic of our time – still has no clear end in sight, it is certain that more and more initiatives will be started and developed. It is up to us to remain well informed and do our bit to support these initiatives, or we will end up losing the great battle against disinformation.