Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced Coronavirus as global health emergency but opposed the evacuation of foreigners from China. WHO showed satisfaction over the Chinese government measures to contain and eliminate Coronavirus and also stressed on taking measures to stop the spread of fake information and negative propagandas related to Coronavirus on mainstream media and other social media platforms. The concerns expressed by the WHO shows the intensity of the ongoing false information crusade on media. The statement urged to combat the unnecessary debate on media over the epidemic and instead positive and constructive debate should be encouraged to jointly find solution to the crisis.
The concerns were valid, as soon after the initial cases the online media turns into battlefield. There were two types of dominant narratives, the first was targeted solemnly to hurt China’s image globally, while the other discussed the struggleof Chinese people in the ongoing fight against epidemic.
The netizens remained actively engaged on social media platforms, wheredominantly theypropagated the negative side of the epidemic and propagated things of which they do not have firsthand information or wereunaware of the facts.Tweeting and posting while sitting in their comport zones overnight they become expert of something which was happening far away from them, and thus contributed their part in further pushingthe negativity which resulted unprecedented panic.
For such people, itis not important whether the information that they spreadis authentic, valid or mere misinformation and rumors, what important for them is attention seeking. It was the acts of suchpeoplewhich created hype among communities by constantly spreading rumors which spark unnecessary panic among others. The dilemma of rumors can well be explained with the remarks of American historian Daniel Boorstin, who said more information simply multiple the symptoms without actually curing the disease. It was because of this hype that the WHO stressed media outlets;particularly online media platforms to curb the spread of fake information and propagandas. The impact of rumor should not be underestimated and should be dealt in accordance with law. Some of the Pakistani youngsters also took part in the spread of false information, on which government took action and imprisoned one over spreading rumors.
The global community must take this case as an example for curbing spread of rumors in epidemic crisis. Some of the other countries also taken such sort of actions, at least sixteen people were arrested over false postsover the epidemic, in countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. The WHO launched a project with Google which aims to provide easily access correct information on the Corona epidemic and curb the falsely narrated online content. In a time when the fight against Corona virus is on its peak, it is essential to stop rumors and false information about the epidemic and encourage Chinese government in the fight against Corona virus. – The author is a staff member of The Daily Mail