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Last Updated : Feb 05, 2020 05:59 PM IST | Source:

Coronavirus outbreak: WHO and social media platforms tackle misinformation and fake news

Social media platforms, the unwitting channels for misinformation, have also begun to take action.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been posting regular reminders to dispel misinformation about the novel coronavirus (nCoV) by calling out fake news and quack treatments for the illness that made the rounds on social media platforms.

On February 4, the organisation’s Twitter account tweeted: “It is important to tackle misinformation as soon as possible.”

Fake social media alerts claiming to be advisories from the WHO or various health ministries that target scared individuals have been doing the rounds.


WHO's Twitter account now periodically puts myth-busting posts with the hashtag #KnowYourFacts, the latest of which addressed “evidence that garlic has protected people from the nConV”.

These are not isolated incidents. A WhatsApp post that falsely claimed to be from the UAE’s Ministry of Health  said the virus would “attack your throat within 10 minutes if you don’t drink enough water”, CNBC reported.

In Malaysia, a Facebook post showed a fake “picture” of the virus with the text as: "This is an image of one of many 'Allah's armies' sent to attack China in the form of coronavirus. This is the actual image of the virus as seen under a very powerful microscope."

The post, which is still on Facebook, was falsely claimed to be from a government department and was shared 700 times, the CNBC report said.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the WHO, also addressed the issue at the UN Geneva Council. The WHO tweeted him saying: “In our era of fake news & misinformation, more than ever the world needs a WHO that brings reliable science & evidence to bear on the decisions we make about health.”

Social media platforms, the unwitting channels for misinformation, have also begun to take action. Google has begun plugging in information from WHO in search terms related to the virus, while YouTube has stepped up promotions for credible source videos that provided information on the illness. 

Facebook on its part has also pledged to "take down information" about China's fast-spreading coronavirus.

Ghebreyesus also acknowledged the efforts taken by these platforms to combat misinformation: “It's time for facts, not fear. We appreciate Google, Facebook, TencentGlobal, TikTok and Twitter's efforts to combat misinformation and rumours on #2019nCoV & direct users to reliable sources."

The coronavirus outbreak has stoked a wave of anti-China sentiment around the globe. Hoaxes have spread widely online, promoted by conspiracy theorists and exacerbated by a dearth of information from the cordoned-off zone around China's central city of Wuhan, where the outbreak began.

For all the updates from WHO on #KnowYourFacts follow this thread:

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First Published on Feb 4, 2020 05:22 pm
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