It is clear that in a moment of general panic, spreading false news can create serious collateral damage
As the numbers of the pandemic grow, the climate changes everywhere. In South Africa, the government has established that those who spread fakenews on coronavirus face up to 6 months in prison; in the United Arab Emirates it reaches 5 years with expulsion from the country; in Morocco the day before yesterday there were a dozen arrests of people accused of spreading false news about the pandemic on social media. It is clear that in a moment of general panic, spreading false news can create serious collateral damage: in India, for example, in early February, messages linking Covid-19 to chickens started circulating on Whatsapp. Given the precedents with bird flu, the messages were taken seriously and forwarded to millions of people and a month later the sale of chickens and eggs had fallen by 70 percent. Also for this reason, yesterday Facebook announced an agreement with the Indian government that provides for a dedicated chat on Whatsapp called “don’t panic”.
ALCOHOL. In South Africa, Facebook has also made an agreement with the government and launched a chat on Whatsapp. One of the first applications was to explain why it was decided to limit the distribution and sale of alcohol at this time. In the chat they say for example that drinking alcohol will not protect us from the coronavirus and on the contrary will make the immune system weaker and decisions less lucid. To combat stress, the conclusion is, there are more effective methods. (It must be said that the World Health Organization has never shown the beneficial effects of alcohol to stop coronaviruses, but the belief that they may have in the past few weeks had caused a few dozen deaths in Iran).
SUPERMARKETS. On various homegrown Whatsapp groups the news of a promotion of supermarkets that give 200 euros of discounts on certain products to those who complete a survey. It’s a hoax, reports Covid19Italia Help. But even the video that always runs in Italy where people are seen storming a supermarket in Germany does not refer to the virus panic, but to an episode from last year when everyone wanted to shop with coupons.
DOLPHINS. National Geographic has reported less harmful but not unfounded fake news: on Tik Tok and Instagram in recent days several users have shared photos of dolphins and swans in the deserted canals of Venice and elephants; while on Weibo, a Chinese social network, circulating photos of elephants who had invaded a village and got drunk drinking wine. What holds this type of post together, according to the prestigious magazine, is an alleged revenge of nature while humans barricaded themselves in the house. But swans in Venice are not new, especially in Burano; the dolphin photos had been taken in Sardinia. While in China there has been a government investigation to settle the matter and it was discovered that a dozen elephants actually broke into a couple of villages last week, but this usually happens. And in any case they were not the elephants of the photo posted on social media.