Infodemic: the new global pandemic

Coronavirus cures, alarming information about its contagious levels, remedies that can make you immune to the COVID-19. And how not to mention the chilling announcements that someone created the virus in a lab…all of this and much more has led to the start of a new global pandemic: the infodemic.

“Coronavirus is changing society, humanity and journalism has definitely got to evolve in the scientific area”

Dr. Javier Fernández del Moral, in a presentation at the VI International Communication Week.

Understanding the infodemic

The term infodemic started to be used by the World Health Organization (WHO) the past February. It alludes the big cumulus of information that has been generated during the world sanitary crisis, whether true or false.

According to the Panamerican Health Organization (PHO), this situation became “a massive infodemic, or in other words, an excessive amount of information. Such big amount makes it difficult for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable orientation when needed.”

La imagen tiene un atributo ALT vacío; su nombre de archivo es COVID19-4-1200x800.jpg
Constantly looking at screens waiting for new data and information about COVID19 can become a cause of anxiety Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

 This new pandemic is, for the great part, the result of the increased circulation of truthful information but above all of fake news or hoaxes that revolve around the disease that has the world at check.

“Not only are we fighting against the coronavirus; but also against trolls and the conspiracy theorists that propel misinformation and undermine the answer to the outbreak”. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director of the WHO, assured.

Symptoms of infodemic

Feeling overexposed to communication media during the quarantine is something that has happened to many. Here the important thing is to identify when that may end up in an infodemic and how to tackle it.

Symptoms like fear, paranoia or excessive trust are associated to the phenomenon of the infodemic. Also, it is possible that you feel anxiety, or that your overwhelmed by so much information, depressed or feeling inconsolable. 

“During a health emergency, infodemics can disclose errors, misleading information or rumours. As well as get in the way of an effective response. It also creates confusion and distrust towards the solutions or advices that are given to prevent the disease.”

Guide for journalists prepared by the PHO.

What can you do to tackle the infodemic?

What can you do to tackle the infodemic? In the search of a way to stop this informative pandemic, the WHO has reached out for governmental support. Also for support from enterprises like Google or Facebook to contain and/or verify the contents that users share not only in these platforms but also on WhatsApp and YouTube.

The main goal of these alliances is to avoid the spread of fake news, and thus contribute to the distribution of authentic and updated information about the coronavirus.

The WHO reached an agreement with Whatsapp to provide alerts to citizens through this popular app. Photo by Rachit Tank on Unsplash

PHO’s recommendations to face the infodemic.

  • Trust the WHO
  • Recognize scientific data.
  • Avoid fake news
  • Support open science
  • Determine whether the information actually makes sense even when it comes from a safe source
  • Notify damaging rumors.
  • If you can’t confirm the source of the information and its use, it is better not to share it.
  • Make sure that others have shared that information before.
  • Interchange information in a responsible manner.
  • Check the source before resending an audio, text or WhatsApp link.
  • Keep learning.

Identifying how we feel because of the current situation in the world and modifying our concrete scenario is key to counteracting the infodemic. In this moment, the most relevant is to accomplish a responsible use of technology and that it doesn’t subvert our daily lives.

Not letting yourself fall in a fake news or a hoax would be much easier if we had a validated identification system, to associate every criteria or data issued about the pandemic with a contrasted source. FySelf is working in a proposal to tackle this, keep them in sight!

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Aline Marie Rodríguez

Journalist with my pen and my lens. Photography lover.

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