In this digital age, social media remains the primary source of content or news for more people with an internet connection. Everyone with a smartphone can access different social media at any time of the day. This has helped bring in more news curators in the mainstream hence increasing the volume of content.
There are 3.5 billion smartphone users in the world today (2020). Almost every third person worldwide owns a smartphone. With so much content in hand, it gets harder to filter out fake or inauthentic pieces. Most content that is shared on Facebook and Twitter and popular chat apps like WhatsApp tend to be fake in nature.
A new study conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has found that fake news stories spread much faster on Twitter than real news—and humans are to blame for their circulation, not bots.
Although social media has helped spread important content to users at a go and helped inform about serious pandemics like COVID-19, it has hurt more than helping the cause.
Pandemics of the social media age
The rise in the use of social media has grown exponentially in the last decade. Similarly, it has given rise to content developers and content curators. However, it has been overblown by the inauthentic news website, social media handles, and social media groups which are seemed to producing the most amount of content.
The COVID-19 outbreak isn’t the first to arrive in the age of social media: at least three other international pandemics occurred in the ten years preceding it namely H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic, the Ebola epidemic, and the Zika outbreak.
Most of the reliable news pieces get hid amidst the large volume of clickbait contents that are more likely to be produced and shared.
By the time 2014 arrived, health organizations were much better prepared to launch their campaigns, and influencers helped them get exposure. But the social networks themselves had trouble identifying malicious actors and dealing with misinformation.
It has been confirmed by the scientists that the novel coronavirus began spreading from the wet market at Wuhan, China. The zoological disease was transmitted from an animal to a human.
The social media habits of unaware users give rise to the hoax. When inauthentic news is shared from authoritative social media handles owned celebrities and internet celebrities, more people are likely to share it with their peers.
The Hoax of 5G causing COVID-19 Infection
To clear the air -5G does not cause COVID-19 infection. The hoax news has been around for a while, where many social media posts with photos and videos started popping up.
5G is considered fifth-generation wireless technology. One of the most sought-after technological advancement, it is believed to help bridge a gap between the internet data and the user by sharply increasing the bandwidth and usage.
In the last few weeks, the hoax news about 5G connection causing COVID-19 infection has been widespread throughout social media.
Many celebrities including Hollywood actors Woody Harelson and John Cusack shared the news on their Twitter.
According to the experts, the mainstream is unusually accepting of conspiratorial thinking, rumors, alarm, or panic during uncertain times.
Yonder Chief Innovation Officer Ryan Fox told TechCrunch reported that,
In the current infodemic, we’ve seen conspiracy theories and other forms of misinformation spread across the internet at an unprecedented velocity.”
Naushad UzZaman, the company’s chief technology officer and co-founder reported that,
In the previous 24 hours, there had been more than 50,000 posts about the topic on Twitter and Reddit.
The violence after the spread of hoax news has also been reported around some parts of the world. At least 20 mobile phone masts have been attacked in the U.K. Employees of British Telecommunication were also reported to have been abused in the recent days
According to Drum.com,
WHO and other public health organizations also use social media to inform the public about the outbreak and control the panic. Of course, it doesn’t mean that misinformation is not being circulated among social media users. For many people, conspiracy theories are a natural response to the senseless cruelty of this crisis. They offer clarity and an opportunity to blame someone for the havoc.
A hoax About Warm Weather Could Kill COVID-19
The latest buzz in the COVID-19 pandemic is if warm weather could really kill COVID-19 infection.
According to the latest research, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates. It can transmit regardless of climate.
As reported by the World Health Organization,
Exposing yourself to the sun or to temperatures higher than 25C degrees DOES NOT prevent the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). You can catch COVID-19, no matter how sunny or hot the weather is. Countries with hot weather have reported cases of COVID-19. To protect yourself, make sure you clean your hands frequently and thoroughly and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
From the evidence collected, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in all areas, including areas with hot and humid weather.
WHO has advised people to adopt protective measures against COVID-19 despite rising or fall in the number of fatalities.
Another interesting hoax that circulated the web some time ago was diagnosing the infection by holding the breath for 10 seconds. However, WHO clarified that being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds or more without coughing or feeling discomfort doesn’t mean you are free from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) or any other lung disease.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are dry cough, tiredness, and fever. Some people may develop more severe forms of the disease, such as pneumonia. The best way to confirm if you have the virus-producing COVID-19 disease is with a laboratory test. You cannot confirm it with this breathing exercise, which can even be dangerous.
Guy Berger, the Director for Policies and Strategies regarding Communication and Information at UNESCO, mentioned that,
The motives for spreading disinformation are many and include political aims, self-promotion, and attracting attention as part of a business model. Those who do so, play on emotions, fears, prejudices, and ignorance, and claim to bring meaning and certainty to a reality that is complex, challenging and fast-changing.
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