We estimate that it’s about 20,000 South Africans who are actually active on anti-vax Facebook pages,” says Prof Hannelie Meyer, a pharmacist and adviser to the South African Vaccine and Immunisation Centre. Could the above statement erupt because of mis information.? Have you ever wondered why information spreads at high speed in this information age, especially after the emergence of covid 19 pandemic ? Or could it be because of social network which has amplified the shift.?
According to Wworld Hhealth Organisation WHO, the COVID-19 outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive infodemic: an overabundance of information some accurate and some not, which makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it. Infodemic refers to a large increase in the volume of information associated with a specific topic and whose growth can occur exponentially in a short period of time due to a specific incident, such as the current pandemic.
In this situation, misinformation and rumors appear on the scene, along with manipulation of information with doubtful intent.
Moreover, Over abundance of information has made it easier to spread false information both online and offline. It includes deliberate attempts to disseminate wrong information to undermine the public health response and advance alternative agendas of groups or individuals.
Mis- and disinformation can be harmful to people’s physical and mental health; increase stigmatization; threaten precious health gains; and lead to poor observance of the preventive measure .
In the information age, this phenomenon is amplified through social networks, spreading farther and faster like a virus through social media like twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook e.t.c . Covid-19 guidelines which includes social distancing which has resulted to lockdown, has made more citizen journalist to emerge, some of which are not even trained personnel. The lock down guidelines has obviously made people idle as they tend to post and shear information to make themselves busy, with out verifying or fact checking which has increased the pervelance of fake news.
It could sound ridiculous to note that some people don’t believe in the existence of covid-19 pandemic but that’s the truth.
Without the appropriate trust and correct information, diagnostic tests go unused, immunization campaigns (or campaigns to promote effective vaccines) will not meet their targets, and the virus will continue to thrive and this could cost lives .
Furthermore, disinformation is polarizing public debate on topics related to COVID-19; amplifying hate speech; heightening the risk of conflict, violence and human rights violations; and threatening long-terms prospects for advancing democracy, human rights and social cohesion says WHO, UN ,UNESCO, UNICEF, UNIAID, ITU, UN global paulse and IFRC in a joint statement.
In addition, The UN Secretary- General Anthonio Gutteres launched the United Nations Communications Response initiative to combat the spread of mis- and disinformation in April 2020. The UN also issued a Guidance Note on Addressing and Countering COVID-19 related Hate Speech (11 May 2020).
In conclusion, At the World Health Assembly in May 2020, WHO Member States passed Resolution WHA73.1 on the COVID-19 response. The Resolution recognizes that managing the infodemic is a critical part of controlling the COVID-19 pandemic: it calls on member States to provide reliable COVID-19 content, take measures to counter mis- and disinformation and leverage digital technologies across the response. The Resolution also calls on international organizations to address mis- and disinformation in the digital sphere, prevent harmful cyber activities undermining the health response and support the public. Information received should only be shared after confirmation.
Written and submitted by: Fatima Umar, Intern with Unity Radio fm/tv Jos.