CAPE TOWN – Social media platforms have received backlash for being a breeding grounds for false information during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against the consequences of a pernicious “infodemic.”
Facing pressure from the WHO, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have since taken measures to counter disinformation about the coronavirus on their platforms.
WhatsApp has also received its fair share of reprisals and has already taken a few steps to try and combat this wave of misinformation, including limiting the ability to forward viral messages and piloting a way to quickly double-check such messages online.
The messaging app has now partnered with independent fact-checking charity Full Fact to launch a new fact-checking service in the United Kingdom.
“The next time you see something being shared on WhatsApp that you’re not sure of, you can forward it on directly to us, and we’ll fact check it for you. This helps us get a better picture of the kind of misinformation floating around WhatsApp too, so we can focus our efforts where it matters most. We’re testing this service as a pilot for the next 3 months,” read a statement from the organisation.
Meanwhile, according to a new study from Cornell University, U.S. President Donald Trump is the world’s biggest spreader of coronavirus misinformation.
Nearly 38 percent of the “misinformation conversation” began with Trump doing things such as promoting unproven “miracle cures” for Covid-19 or claiming with zero evidence that the pandemic was a “Democratic Party hoax” aimed at derailing his presidency, the researchers from the Cornell Alliance for Science found.
“We were interested in exploring this issue because the World Health Organization has identified Covid-19 misinformation, which it dubbed an ‘infodemic,’ as a serious concern in fighting the pandemic,” said Alliance Director Sarah Evanega.
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