At least 800 people died worldwide as a result of coronavirus-related misinformation in the first three months of this year, a study has found.
A further 5,800 people were admitted to hospital after being exposed to false information on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and chat apps, the study said.
The study’s authors echoed statements from the World Health Organization (WHO), which warned the Covid-19 “infodemic” spread just as quickly as the virus itself.
Most of the deaths and hospital admissions were the result of people drinking methanol and alcohol-based cleaning products, wrongly believing them to be a cure for coronavirus.
But following advice that resembles credible medical information - such as ingesting large quantities of vitamins - can also have “potentially serious implications”, the authors say.
The paper concludes that it’s down to international agencies, governments and social media platforms to fight back against this “infodemic”.
Given the numbers actually affected by novel coronavirus and COVID-19, that 800 count is almost insignificant noise. Yes, it is a shame, but the phenomenon is nothing new. There will always be people who are ignorant, stupid, badly informed, even malicious.
The worst modern, and ongoing, example of this same situation is the worldwide community of the ANTI-VAX movement, spawned by Andrew Wakefield's fraudulent 1998 medical paper in The Lancet saying the MMR vaccine caused autism.