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Surge Of Virus Misinformation Stumps Facebook And Twitter by Ehiscotch(m): 4:18pm On Mar 12, 2020
Secret labs. Magic cures. Government
plots. Despite efforts by social media
companies to stop it, false information
about the coronavirus is proliferating
around the world.


SAN FRANCISCO — First, there were
conspiratorial whispers on social media that
the coronavirus had been cooked up in a
secret government lab in China. Then there
were bogus medicines : gels, liquids and
powders that immunized against the virus.
And then there were the false claims about
governments and celebrities and racial
unrest. Taiwan was covering up virus deaths,
and the illness was spiraling out of control.
Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder who now
runs a philanthropic organization, was behind
the spread of the virus. Italians were
marching in the streets, accusing Chinese
people of bringing the illness to their country.
None of it was true.
As the coronavirus has spread across the
world, so too has misinformation about it,
despite an aggressive effort by social media
companies to prevent its dissemination.
Facebook, Google and Twitter said they were
removing misinformation about the
coronavirus as fast as they could find it, and
were working with the World Health
Organization and other government
organizations to ensure that people got
accurate information.


But a search by The New York Times found
dozens of videos, photographs and written
posts on each of the social media platforms
that appeared to have slipped through the
cracks. The posts were not limited to English.
Many were originally in languages ranging
from Hindi and Urdu to Hebrew and Farsi,
reflecting the trajectory of the virus as it has
traveled around the world.

Security researchers have even found that
hackers were setting up threadbare websites
that claimed to have information about the
coronavirus. The sites were actually digital
traps, aimed at stealing personal data or
breaking into the devices of people who
landed on them.

The spread of false and malicious content
about the coronavirus has been a stark
reminder of the uphill battle fought by
researchers and internet companies. Even
when the companies are determined to
protect the truth, they are often outgunned
and outwitted by the internet’s liars and
thieves.

There is so much inaccurate information
about the virus, the W.H.O. has said it was
confronting a “ infodemic .”
“I see misinformation about the coronavirus
everywhere. Some people are panicking, and
looking to magical cures, and other people are
spreading conspiracies,” said Austin Chiang, a
gastroenterologist at Jefferson University
Hospital in Philadelphia.

In Taiwan, virus-related misinformation on
social media has fed concerns that China
might be using the crisis to undermine the
government of the self-ruling island.

In recent weeks, there have been posts on
Facebook and other sites claiming that
Taiwan has concealed large numbers of
coronavirus infections. There have been fake
but official-looking documents promising
giveaways of face masks and vaccines. A
screen capture from a television news
broadcast was doctored to say that President
Tsai Ing-wen had contracted the disease and
was in quarantine.

In a statement to The Times, Taiwan’s foreign
minister, Joseph Wu, blamed China’s
“internet armies” for the deluge of falsehoods,
though his office declined to elaborate on
how he came to that conclusion. China’s
Taiwan Affairs Office didn’t respond to a
faxed request for comment.

The Communist Party claims Taiwan as part
of China’s territory, and Taiwanese officials
have long accused Beijing of manipulating
both traditional news media and social
platforms to turn Taiwanese citizens against
President Tsai, who opposes closer ties with
China.

Summer Chen, the editor in chief of Taiwan
FactCheck Center, a watchdog group that
debunks online rumors and hoaxes, said her
team had been busier since the outbreak
began than it was ahead of Taiwan’s
presidential election in January, when the
island was on high alert for potential Chinese
meddling.

“Throughout this whole epidemic, people
have really liked conspiracy theories,” Ms.
Chen said. “Why is it that during epidemics
people don’t choose to believe accurate
scientific information?”.

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter all said they
were making efforts to point people back to
reliable sources of medical information, and
had direct lines of communication to the
W.H.O. and the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention.

Facebook said it bans content that could
cause people harm, such as claims that
discourage treatment or taking appropriate
precautions against the coronavirus. Posts
and videos that shared conspiracy theories
were clearly marked as false, once they had
been reviewed by fact checkers.

When Facebook users attempt to share them,
a message pops up alerting the user that the
post includes information that has been
deemed false by fact checkers.

Those measures, however, have not stopped
people in private Facebook groups from
linking to and sharing misinformation
surrounding the virus. In private Facebook
groups, including one that totals over 100,000
members, conspiracy theories spread that the
coronavirus was an invention of the
pharmaceutical industry, intended to sell the
public on more expensive drugs and more
vaccines.

While many posts simply encouraged people
to take vitamins and eat a balanced diet to
boost their immune system, others offered
promises of immunity or cures if certain
combinations of powders and drinks were
consumed. Some were even more dangerous.
The Food and Drug Administration referred to
one “miracle mineral solution” posted many
times on Facebook and Twitter as “ the same
as drinking bleach .”


https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/08/technology/coronavirus-mhttps://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/08/technology/coronavirus-misinformation-social-media.htmlisinformation-social-media.html
Re: Surge Of Virus Misinformation Stumps Facebook And Twitter by Ehiscotch(m): 4:19pm On Mar 12, 2020
lalasticlala. These people really need serious education.

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