Most social media outlets have different options to select normally about false news and the way of which it is spread. This is spread mainly through rumours and word of mouth. But due to this outbreak, the increase of fake news has been hard to control and something of which if not properly contained could potentially scare and panic more people than the virus would if there was no spread of misinformation.
One particular way that people fall victim to fake news on social media is that of chain messages. One person can send a message to twenty people about where the virus has come from and what you can do to stop it; but then those twenty will forward it on to many more and these messages will keep doing the rounds until they cause mass hysteria and boycotting whatever this message has said to have caused the coronavirus.
For instance, one of the “conspiracy theories” is that this illness was spread more by the 5G towers. Celebrities and people alike started sharing the idea that this is something that could be true, and it led to 5G phone masts being burnt down in Birmingham, Merseyside and Liverpool. Fact checkers have since debunked this myth but still, the idea that mobile phone technology seems to have caused possibly one of the biggest outbreaks since the peak of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in between 2005 and 2012 is still circulating the web.
This particular myth was spread across the social media platforms Facebook and TikTok with the companies struggling to get the outburst of false information under control. A survey taken by Ofcom says that 46% of all internet using adults in the UK saw false or misleading information within the first week of the UK lockdown (23rd March 2020). However, this figure rose by 12% to 58% of all internet using 18-24 year olds.
This type of misinformation is not just limited to the UK though. Someone in Japan posted on Facebook some “seriously excellent advice by Japanese doctors”. This advice suggested that to prevent COVID-19 you would have to make sure that your mouth is never dry and to keep drinking sips of water regularly as it will knock the virus down into your stomach, of which there your stomach acids will destroy it. Now this has also been proven wrong, although doctors have stated that keeping fluids up is a good way to overcome a viral infection after you have passed the worst of it. However, this is not a way to prevent the coronavirus and should not be seen as such.
The social media sites of which these packets of information have been shared are TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. Obviously, there are more places that things are shared but these are the main four social networking sites of which fake news and misinformation will be spread easily.
The Oxford’s Reuters Institute investigated 225 false or misleading claims about coronavirus and where they originated from. It was discovered that 88% of all claims about COVID-19 and coronavirus came from social media, compared to 9% on television and 8% from news outlets.
At current, each social networking website has various options to suggest that something is spam or abusive; but only Facebook has an option to say that something is false news. Each networking site is working to reduce this by bringing in further solutions to combat the spread of the “infodemic” that is COVID-19 fake news.
Twitter has introduced a new policy to remove any tweets that may contradict the official public health advice, including that to ignore the social distancing measures put in place for people’s safety.
Facebook and other social media outlets have set up a coronavirus information page, sharing official health advice and rules of a lockdown should you be somewhere where one is in place. Along with these information centres, Google have reorganised the coronavirus web search page showing only official government and health organisations advice, with no unofficial information being given on the search pages.
Pinterest, and Instagram have set up pop ups that send you to official advice for your country when you search up coronavirus or COVID-19 and WhatsApp has brought in measures to reduce the amount of mass messages you can send at one time.
Although the spread of fake news in this “infodemic” might be spiralling out of control, the social media companies are doing this best to keep this issue under close supervision in order to cease the misinformation being given.