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Community Champion

COVID-19–Related Infodemic and Its Impact on Public Health

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”.


3 Replies
Defender I

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. 

Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent

Research fraud catalyzed the anti-vaccination movement. Let’s not repeat history.






D. Cragin Shelton, DSc
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Influencer II

> leroux (Community Champion) posted a new topic in Threats on 08-12-2020 11:21 AM

> 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.

Infodemic. I rather like that term.

There is misinformation being distributed. There is also deliberate
*dis*information. Sometimes the untruths arise from simple ignorance. There is
a lot of ignorance to go around, particularly about a virus we didn’t even know
existed last year. Over the next few years, a lot of people will be doing a lot of
study and research to find out more about coronaviruses as a class, and about this
one in particular. If only we knew now what we will know in a few years, we would
be in good shape. But we don’t know that yet. We are fighting, sometimes
literally, for our lives, and the lives of those we hold dear, against an enemy we
can only dimly perceive, and we have very little information about how it lives,
attacks, and can be, in turn, attacked.

We fear the virus because it is dangerous. But we also fear the virus because we
know so little about it. And that fear, arising out of our ignorance, can have a
very strange effect on our decision-making. I saw this when I was studying
computer viruses. In the early days, very few of us had a good understanding of
how computer viruses worked, and most computer users and managers developed
some very strange attitudes. Some, not knowing what viruses were, or how to
protect against them, decided, on the basis of no evidence at all, that the risk
wasn’t very big, and viruses could be ignored. Mac users, particularly, developed a
myth that Macs were immune, and therefore they, as Mac users, were safe and
need not take any precautions. (There were, in the early days, fewer strains of
malware for Macs, but when they did hit a group of Mac users, the infection rates
were much higher than in comparable groups of DOS users.) Many managers
decided that viruses were a risk only if you used pirated software, and, if you
didn’t, you were safe. (In the early days, the most prevalent and successful types
of computer virus were the class of boot sector infectors, which travelled on
floppy disks, regardless of whether any software was present.)

Because there are so many areas where our knowledge is limited and imperfect,
experts may, quite legitimately, disagree on various points. Different ideas, and
the importance of certain ideas, may come into contention. So, in regard to
masks (which have come to be a huge source of contention, and which I examine
in at least two parts of my book), one expert may, quite honestly and truthfully,
say that masks do not provide much absolute protection in terms of keeping you
from getting infected. (As Tevye would say, you’re right.) Another expert, just
as honestly, could point out that, in areas of high viral load, a mask (backed up by
a gown and face shield) is better than nothing. (As Tevye would say, you’re
right.) Yet another expert might note that, in populations where the rates of
infection are higher, and because of asymptomatic transmission, wearing a mask
demonstrates that you are concerned, to the point of personal inconvenience,
about protecting those around you, rather than yourself. (As Tevye would say,
you’re right.) And then some random bystander would point out that all of these
points of view seem to contradict each other. (To which Tevye would say, you
know, you also are right.)

I do recall, thirty years ago, managing to sanitize a Usenet news group (alt.virus)
which had been set up for the express purpose of distributing virus code. We did it,
but it wasn't easy, and it took determined effort to fight disinformation whenever
and wherever we saw it.

====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems
afterward. - Arthur Koestler


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Defender I

@rslade wrote:
... (As Tevye would say, you’re right.) ...

He's Right He's right hes also right






D. Cragin Shelton, DSc
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