As the coronavirus spreads across the world, misinformation is spreading even faster with authorities racing to deal with the first major health crisis in the smartphone era.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has dismissed viral erroneous messages which issued purported advisories on the deadly COVID-19.
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Unicef Deputy Executive Director for Partnerships Charlotte Petri Gornitzka said the messages were “dangerous” and “wrong” and could spread paranoia, fear, stigmatisation and “result in people being left unprotected or more vulnerable to the virus.”
“For example, a recent erroneous online message circulating in several languages around the world and purporting to be a UNICEF communication appears to indicate, among other things, that avoiding ice cream and other cold foods can help prevent the onset of the disease. This is, of course, wholly untrue,” Gornitzka said.
She had a message to the creator(s) of the falsehoods, “STOP. Sharing inaccurate information and attempting to imbue it with authority by misappropriating the names of those in a position of trust is dangerous and wrong.”
The said advisories were released through online messaging platforms, a route UNICEF Philippines refuted it took with health advisories.
?? Misinformation on COVID-19— UNICEF Philippines (@unicefphils) March 7, 2020
UNICEF does not issue coronavirus advisories on chat apps. We post updates and safety tips only on official verified UNICEF accounts and on our official website: https://t.co/sYMowbWVvP #COVID19 #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/EuA7YWwW5U
The agency’s Nairobi office urged people to “always double-check the facts before sharing, by visiting the World Health Organization or UNICEF websites”.
??????Beware of misinformation on #coronavirus circulating on WhatsApp & other social media platforms.
Always double check the facts before sharing, by visiting the @WHO or @UNICEF websites.
Get all the facts on how to prevent #COVID19 here ????????https://t.co/GdNLEv0TBE — UNICEF Kenya (@UNICEFKenya) March 8, 2020
This was reinforced by Gornitzka who advised people to seek accurate information about how to keep themselves safe from “from verified sources, such as UNICEF or WHO, government health officials and trusted healthcare professionals; and that you refrain from sharing information from untrustworthy or unverified sources.”
“It can be difficult in today’s information-rich society to know exactly where to go for knowledge about how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. But it is critical that we remain as diligent about the accuracy of the information we share as we are about every other precaution we take to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe,” she said.
The misinformation poll on the virus has been described by WHO as an “infodemic”. This it says means there is “an overabundance of information — some accurate and some not — that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.”
Covid-19 which has killed more than 3,500 people worldwide is believed to have originated from China late last year.
The disease has affected 94 countries and was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020.
Despite several reports online that pitch false cures for the fast-spreading global health crisis, there is no vaccine for the highly contagious flu-like disease.
How to spot the fakes on virus
The sharing of conspiracy theories on coronavirus is at an all-time high. Do your due diligence and evaluate information before you share
Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have resource pages that advice you to be on the lookout for headlines with exclamation points, tampered dates and images. Stick to trusted news sites
Google has also partnered with WHO to enable easier access to safety information. The feature works by displaying relevant news content and localised updates at the top of your browsing page.
This is an initiative of the Standard Group to combat fake news, misinformation and disinformation. If there’s something you want us to look into, email us on [email protected]