Topic: General Studies 1 & 2:
- Effects of globalization on Indian society.
- Development processes and the development industry —the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations
Infodemic: the new challenge of COVID-19 pandemic
Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, has spread to every continent except Antarctica. The crisis has also created the menace of infodemic.
Infodemic is a situation where there is an “overabundance” of information that makes it difficult for people to identify truthful and trustworthy sources from false or misleading one
How has COVID-19 impacted the use of Social Media?
- Enhanced Usage: Suspension of work during quarantine has left people to increasingly use Social media platforms both for entertainment and information.
- Nearly 400 million turn to a single messaging app- WhatsApp- for sharing news and stories
- More than 240 million are on Facebook and, often, using it as the predominant source of news,
- Lack of gate-kepers in Social Media: Traditional news had quality assurance, and editorial controls before publication and most of the content was created by professionals – which is lacking in social media
- Breeding ground for rumours: The above factors have become the perfecting setting for spread of misinformation some of which are- Bioweapons origins of the coronavirus (false); Bill Gates was behind it (false); UNICEF’s recommendations for warding off infection (unauthorised)
What are the consequences of spread of misinformation?
- Communalisation of Pandemics: The Tablighi-Jamaat in New Delhi which has emerged as hot spot for the pandemic has made anti-social elements to give the disease communal colour (Corona Jihad)
- Polarised public sphere: Increasing distrust among the communities
- Privileging of faith over science: Any news which speaks about a cure is believed.
- Nativist concerns are prioritised over global anxiety- which has strengthened conservative tendencies
- Contempt for scientific temper – where wrong behaviours can further propel the pandemic
- Spurs Panic behaviour in people – causing people to rush to markets for stockpiling their essential supplies
- Enhances anxiety among public: For instance, a 23-year-old man, suspected to be a patient of novel coronavirus infection, committed suicide by jumping from the seventh floor of Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi
- Law and order issues: People have attacked the health inspectors in certain places due to misplaced fears spread through social media
Actions taken by various agencies to fight infodemic
- Fact checking websites like Boom Live and Alt News, are continuously checking stories and verifying its truth.
- WHO has started their own myth busting page – “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth busters”, debunking the myths doing rounds in social media and educating the public with authentic and verified information.
- Proactive role by Social Media Platforms
- Google has created an SOS Alert on COVID-19 for the six official UN languages to make sure the first information the public receives is from the WHO website
- Facebook has promised to ban ads that promise “cures” for the Covid-19 virus.
- The Press Information Bureau has set up a portal for fact-checking issues related with the pandemic. It will also receive messages by email and send its response.
- Information Hygiene: Where people need to verify the information before sharing it to others.
- Information hygiene can be done by verifying it is from an authentic source, double checking with fact checking website, asking a doctor or an expert etc.
- Inform relevant authorities of the rumours being spread on social media platforms
- Investing in training people to understand the concept of information hygiene.
Connecting the dots:
- Do governments need to regulate the Social Media platforms to prevent the spread of misinformation?
- Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee recommendation on data protection framework in India