The spreading of misinformation can be dangerous and can put people’s lives at risk. WHO is taking the necessary measures to fight against the spread of infodemic amid the coronavirus.
Rabat – The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a world conference on “infodemiology” on June 29 in order to engage the public in “inspiring” talks with experts and find solutions and measures to manage the escalating global infodemic phenomenon.
WHO defines infodemic as a large increase in the spread of information on various topics during a pandemic, whether accurate or inaccurate. Misinformation spreads “like pathogens,” making it difficult for people to find trustworthy sources and adding complexity to health emergency response, which could put people’s lives at risk.
Seeing that the infodemic is creating serious problems across the world and factoring into the increase of the coronavirus cases, the World Health Organization is taking steps to better understand the phenomenon and determine the right measures to help reduce its threat.
WHO has set out the three-part conference. The public pre-conference where experts will engage, with the public with “seven inspiring talks on how the infodemic affects the world currently and reflections on how it can be managed,” occurred on June 29.
June 30 will see the start of a closed conference session focused on defining the scientific discipline of infodemiology and establishing a community of practice and research. On July 21, WHO will hold a public webinar to discuss the results of the scientific conference.
How social media is distinguishing the COVID-19 pandemic
Amid the coronavirus pandemic and in the absence of a vaccine, social distancing is a necessary method to fight against the spread of the virus. Social distancing led to people using their social media platforms at increased rates to receive and share information about the events of the pandemic. People took an overabundance of information and spread it farther and faster, just like a virus.
What makes this pandemic different from previous pandemics throughout history is the dominance of social media and the use of smart devices in today’s world. In this context, many people spread false information, sometimes deliberately fabricated to deceive the people that are vulnerable during the virus’ outbreak.
This spread of misinformation is serious, dangerous, and can lead to dreadful societal consequences. It can confuse people on what and whom to trust in health guidance and affect their decision making when taking the necessary safety procedures. It can also deteriorate their mental health and increase anxiety, stress, and depression.
In Morocco, when the first coronavirus cases started appearing, many people did not believe in the virus and considered it a “conspiracy” to aggravate panic in the country. Those people took it in their hands to knowingly or unknowingly spread false and fabricated information on social media, which led to many not respecting the safety measures that the government had imposed by going out during lockdown.
This meant issues such as not wearing face masks and mixing in crowded places, which resulted in an increase of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Seeking an effective response
The most-used social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, have also tried stepping up efforts to fight against misinformation. However, given how fast information can spread on the internet, it always finds its way to other netizens before social networks can delete it, if they decide to do so.
In order to respond effectively, WHO organized the conference in order to ensure “adaptation, development, validation, and evaluation of new evidence-based measures and practices to prevent, detect and respond to mis- and disinformation.”