Originally Published on 12 April 2020

Image Courtesy marketingland.com

During this lockdown, we are being bombarded with a lot more information. We are consuming a lot of information during this time than probably we had done it for a long time. People are sitting at home and they are consuming the information from multiple sources such as TV news, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, websites.  TV news channels have had their highest viewership in decades across all the world, so is the use of a few social media apps extra.

All this is leading to a Grave situation of Infodemic.  

The literal meaning of infodemic is “An excessive amount of information concerning a problem such that the solution is made more difficult”.  

We are being thrown at all the different things such doom and gloom, unscientific claims about treatment & prevention, fake news, conspiracy theories, connecting religion and countries to specific and in some cases of Cyber Crime. 

In all this Hullabaloo, the real important and useful information is lost. 

Though misinformation and rumours are not a new thing, it has bugged humanity throughout history. However, now technology is helping it spread super-fast and confuse & impress people like never before. 

We have seen how WhatsApp had become a focal point of fake news in India that has resulted in riots, hate crimes, Quack treatments such as self-treatment of Dengue by Papaya seeds etc. 

Globally, Infodemic is being called out as one of the biggest hurdles in fighting the menace of the COVID-19. We have seen an increase in misinformation during the COVID19 Pandemic period. I am highlighting a few instances of it here:-  

i. We have seen how people have died by self-medicating with alcohol or with some variant of chloroquine.

ii. In Indore, two women doctors were injured when a team of health officials was pelted with stones while they were trying to trace a person who had come into contact with a COVID-19 patient. The incident apparently was sparked by fake WhatsApp videos claiming that healthy Muslims were being taken away and injected with the virus

iii. False theory about 5G`s connection to coronavirus 

iv. Multiple unsubstantiated Self-diagnosis or home remedy message 

v. Fake WHO notification about the lockdown strategy 

vi. 100s of messages linking Narendra Modi`s call for Janta Curfew, Thali Bajaoo, and Diya Jalooo activities to various religious, astrological, scientific aspects within a few minutes of his address to nation ended. None of which was true and Modi might not have even thought about those stupid reasons in his wildest of dreams. Yet millions of people fell prey to these false reasons linked to Modi`s call to country people. Even journalist, celebrities and politician either become prey or partner of this Fake news.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) has rightly said that “We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic,”. 

Even the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres mentioned that “The world is not only fighting the “common enemy” of the coronavirus “but our enemy is also the growing surge of misinformation” 

Its good that Governments and social media companies are rising to the occasion and are trying to manage this menace.  People are getting arrested and a sense of fear is coming to people. Social media companies are also acting with a better sense of responsibility as they either in building tools for better moderation or reporting the contents.

But this is not enough, it’s important we a social citizen take responsibility to make social media clean and to weed out the infodemic from it and slowly build a cleaner social media in the long term. 

Unfortunately, it is not easy and it’s quite difficult for people to identify false or misleading information.

However, Few of the behaviors can help to achieve this. I have been trying to follow this for myself of quite late and thought to share. 

1. Be Skeptical, suspicious, Questioning, Curious 

It’s important that we trust and believe but its more important that we question and are curious. Never believe any WhatsApp forward, twitter post, news, email, video or photographs until you have verified it from multiple sources. Don’t believe anything on social media irrespective from whom it coming from until unless you have verified it for yourself.  Even the best of minds, most famous people, big celebrities have fallen prey to spreading false information. 

We can do this by verifying it from simple things like 

i. Check Official Sources & websites

ii. Checking with fact-finding sites such as ALTNews, webqoof from Quint, Boomlive etc

iii. Simply copying & pasting the message in google 

iv. Reverse Image Search  – For few of the images shared on social media – we can verify the real source or trial by searching on image.google.com, just upload the image, and you would find if this is from a particular incident or if it’s from somewhere else or an older photograph.

v. lookout for spelling errors, and indiscriminate use of  CAPS and punctuation

2)   Never forward without verifying – Stop the urge forward anything

We should make a habit never to forward anything unless until you have verified the post. 

3) Don’t just ignore a false post, but “Call it out” also 

Most of us just ignore the false posts and stop at just verifying the information for ourselves and then ignoring it. Maybe we have to start calling it out by sharing the fact check for these false posts in the groups. This might help to prevent the gullible people from falling prey to it and sharing it further. 

4) Watch less of TV News – Most news channels are more of entertainment value and they tend to be biased and  try to polarize issue.Editorial of many news channel is so weak and incompetent that they have telecasted fake news. (who can forget chip in Rs 2000 note news during 2016) 

I will end with this – 

Infodemic Virus spreads faster than Corona Virus, 

However Good news is that like Coronavirus – we can slow it down. 

Let’s all contribute alow both of them. 

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