By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo
Gullibility has always been part of us as humans but for us Ghanaians, it seems our level of gullibility is remarkable. The unfortunate pandemic of Coronavirus and its rapid surge and destruction seem to have made the matter worse.
Put out any related news and majority of Ghanaians would swallow it hook, line and sinker! Persons who even used to be discerning are no longer prodding issues, no longer interrogating matters and are no longer being prudent in their assimilation of news.
To put it bluntly, we are all being thoughtless in our acceptance and dissemination of inaccurate news in the phase of this virus.
The Guardian via its portal, www.theguardian.com presented an article on the misinformation that is drowning us during this pandemic and sought to clear various myths and misinformation that are still being spread across. Here are tidbits of the presentation;
Hot water doesn’t kill it. A myth that just won’t go away is that coronavirus can be killed by water over 27C.
“The average temperature of a human body is somewhere around 37C (98.6 F), which means that if this myth were true no one would ever get sick. It’s also worth noting that you can’t ‘kill’ a virus, because it’s not technically alive in the first place, so this idea is doubly wrong,” epidemiologist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz said.
Chloroquine is not a proven cure. The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, and the similar compound chloroquine, is currently used mostly for patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have potentially severe, and even deadly, side effects if used inappropriately, including heart failure and toxicity.
Drinking lots of water won’t prevent it. While drinking water is good, you can’t prevent coronavirus by simply keeping your throat moist. “It is very simply not true that you can prevent viral infection by drinking water, if for no other reason than the main method of transmission for coronavirus appears to be droplets landing on surfaces, not virus stuck in your throat,” Meyerowitz-Katz said.
Media Always the Enabler
The deadly spread of Covid-19 is being rivaled by the spread of misinformation circulating in response to the pandemic –thanks to the media, both traditional media and social media.
Most of these false news are not only propagated by the media, they also initiate most of them. Social media makes it worse.
With many countries on lockdown, the fast-spread of news on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is on an all-time high. One news item, and within seconds, it is on every phone, every computer and in every household.
The media has always been trusted to provide authentic news over the period, however, the prevalence of the virus has really exposed the media as one of the biggest problems the world faces as we try to combat the pandemic.
The Penchant to Break News First
We have always had this problem to contend with over the years, but the times we find ourselves in, has made the matter worse. The alacrity by some media folks, especially bloggers to be the first to break the news – is creating a lot of spread of misinformation in the public domain.
Some have been so callous and irresponsible to the extent of not cross-checking facts but are quick to apply artworks to their fake news.
The lack of activity generally on all fronts has indeed affected the flow of news, but that’s for the lazy ones – who fail to be ingenious in generating proper and authentic news but would rather rely on the initiation and dissemination of fake news.
Frustratingly, after such fake news spread with the speed of light, the authentic news that is supposed to correct the fake one does not get the same level attention and spread. The damage is done!
Think & Act Right
In all these, the most important element in the acceptance and spread of this virus is the public. Flora Carmichael and Marianna Spring of BBC Trending portal, provide some tips on how the general should react in the midst of such prevalence of fake news.
Stop and think! You want to help family and friends and keep them in the loop. So when you receive fresh advice – whether by email, WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter – you might quickly forward it on to them. But experts say the number one thing you can do to halt misinformation is to simply stop and think. If you have any doubts, pause, and check it out further.
Check your source! Before you forward it on, ask some basic questions about where the information comes from. It’s a big red flag if the source is “a friend of a friend” or “my aunt’s colleague’s neighbour”.
Could it be a fake? Appearances can be deceptive. It is possible to impersonate official accounts and authorities, including BBC News and the government. Screenshots can also be changed to make it look like information has come from a trusted public body. Check known and verified accounts and websites. If you can’t easily find the information, it might be a hoax. And if a post, video or a link looks fishy – it probably is.
Unsure whether it’s true? Don’t share. Don’t forward things on “just in case” they might be true. You might be doing more harm than good. Often we post things into places where we know there are experts – like doctors or medical professionals. That might be OK, but make sure you’re very clear about your doubts. And beware – that photo or text you share might later be stripped of its context.
Beware emotional posts! It’s the stuff that gets us fearful, angry, anxious, or joyful that tends to really go viral. “Fear is one of the biggest drivers that allows misinformation to thrive,” says Claire Wardle of First Draft, an organisation that helps journalists tackle online misinformation. Urgent calls for action are designed to ramp up anxiety – so be careful.