By Sara Pacia for Coconet 01 April 2020
While governments and health workers worldwide are focused on combating the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also busy fighting another related pandemic that cuts across all sectors of society: a massive “infodemic” equally as wide-reaching and harmful.
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes this infodemic as “an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it”.
Verified and timely information is more important than ever – but is also more challenging to come by. The global frontliners in this fight against mis- and disinformation on the coronavirus include:
International health organisations like WHO, which has a dedicated page for busting COVID-related myths
Social media platforms which have released a collective statement promising to crack down on questionable content
Journalists and reporters, who are sharing COVID-19 resources in multiple languages
The International Fact-Checking Network behind the #CoronaVirusFacts/ #DatosCoronaVirus alliance
Continent-specific fact-checkers like EU vs Disinfo
Fake news debunkers such as Tencent for WeChat
Technologists who are providing fact-checking tools.
Similar efforts are taking place in the Asia-Pacific, where region- and country-specific groups are relying on constant, collective fact-checking to combat the infodemic. We want to highlight some of them in this post.
In the Philippines, for example, journalists are sharing their best practices on how to accurately report on the pandemic. Internews also funded a three-part video series on how Philippine fact-checking organisation VERA Files is combatting the COVID-19 infodemic. You can watch the three short videos below or on Engagemedia.org.
The Coronavirus infodemic flooded our screens as the epidemic amassed victims, spreading fear and misunderstanding among people all over the world.
What sort of disinformation contributed to the COVID-19 infodemic? VERA Files Fact Check debunks inaccurate claims about bats and a false report about an alleged positive coronavirus case in Cebu in this video.
Do face masks work? VERA Files Fact Check explains how to protect yourself from COVID-19 in this video. This is the last of VERA's three-part video series.
A similar Internews project is present in India, where partners are continuously conducting fact checks on rumours related to COVID-19.
In Malaysia, there is ample misinformation being shared online – such as one viral video claiming that coronavirus would make people behave like zombies. Malaysian media organisation The Star regularly debunks such false information on the pandemic.
In Indonesia, CekFakta is also at the forefront of debunking false information on the virus, including myths that drinking garlic boiled in water can cure you. The collective fact-checking and verification project is in collaboration with the Indonesian Cyber Media Association, the Indonesian Anti-Slander Society, and the Alliance of Independent Journalists.
In Taiwan, Taiwan Fact-Check Center has a dedicated project for COVID-related mis- and dis-information.
In Myanmar, the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) is providing the latest information on COVID-19 on its website to combat countless fake news stories and hoaxes spreading in Myanmar. The MOHS is also raising public awareness through videos on how the medical staff and the general public can stay safe.
The BBC is also teaching citizens in Myanmar how to fight the infodemic through Thangyat or traditional folk music. It is also supporting similar efforts in Indonesia, India, Cambodia, and Nepal.
As this infodemic – arguably the first true social media infodemic of our time – continues with no clear end in sight, more and more initiatives will surely start and grow. It is up to us to stay informed and do our part to sustain these initiatives, else we ultimately lose in the broader fight against disinformation.