Media and the Coronavirus

 

The COVID-19 virus or the coronavirus outbreak has caught the attention of the media. Some of the media has been accurate but some of it is spreading false information to the public. The fake news has been spread on various social media platforms, websites, television, and by word. The fake news and rumors even caused a town to riot. There are some websites that check articles and rumors to see if they’re true.

A town in Ukraine called Novi Sanzhary erupted into riots caused by the misinformation. Novi Sanzhary is a small town where everybody knows everybody and once the news that Chinese evacuees from a plane that were infected with the coronavirus were heard it spread like wildfire. When they heard the news they immediately met in the street and built barricades and assigned lookouts for street corners. Inma Koba stated that “Over the past two months, we’ve been told and we’ve seen on TV that this is a horrible disease that there is no vaccine against. Then suddenly we find out about a plane transporting sick people. People were outraged.” There was a Viber group formed with a bunch of citizens that had a message that said “50 infected people from China are being brought to our sanitarium. We can’t afford to let them destroy our population, we must prevent countless deaths. People, rise up. We all have children!!! We must act immediately.” Other messages were sent quickly after that only added fuel to the fire such as, “if we sleep this night, then we will wake up dead,” “Chinese refugees will come dressed in camouflage,” and finally someone offered a number of a funeral home saying, “because people will die.” It started with the messages but quickly residents of Novi Sanzhary left their homes to block the entrance of the medical facility. As more people joined the barricade they were met with police and national guard getting ready for a riot. As more police and national guard arrived with armored vehicles the people thought that confirmed that sick people were being brought to their facility. Then an email that appeared to be from the country’s health ministry declared that the evacuees included people that were infected. The email wasn’t true but like everything else, it spread rapidly amongst the people. As night fell they started taking action by making barricades and assigning lookouts on street corners. When the buses with the evacuees arrived residents even set fires to keep them away. The police and national guard reacted with force trying to push them back but violence broke out and when the buses finally arrived residents threw rocks at the windows. The following day the government sent out people to reassure the people and by the end they were okay.

There was an extreme amount of false information and rumors that spread everywhere. The misinformation was spread by social media, websites, television, and by word. Some of the false rumors include the virus was created in a lab, there were gels and liquids that prevented the virus, Bill Gates started the virus, and Italians were marching their streets accusing the Chinese of bringing the COVID-19 to their country. Facebook, Google, and Twitter stated that they would take off misinformation about the virus but many things were not removed because the number of them was so high. Those websites tried to give people reliable sources to look at so they could be educated correctly. Other websites that claimed to have information about the virus were actually made by hackers to steal personal data and breaking into their devices. When attempting to find information about the virus you should always use a trusted website that just has facts. You could also find a fact-checking website to find articles that are true.

The media always blows things out of proportion and spreads a ton of false rumors and this is no exception. Sometimes misinformation can cause unnecessary violence such as the case with Novi Sanzhary. This can be prevented if people don’t spread false information. If they could get their information from trusted sources and not from people and websites that don’t know what they’re talking about, that would prevent much madness.

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/08/technology/coronavirus-misinformation-social-media.html

 

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/christopherm51/coronavirus-riots-social-media-ukraine