Covid19 and the Era of Misinformation

In the era of technological advancements, social networking sites are growing into something increasingly popular and easily accessible. They allow users with the capabilities to distribute information and rapidly to other users without proof of its facts. This also makes matters more difficult when some different users can communicate or alter information to fit their personal ideas. When exploring these sources, it is important to see the extent to which that information can be spread, to what people, and how quickly it can move. These are some clues which pave the way to prevent an outbreak of misinformation which must be taken into consideration by the websites, social media platforms and such information portals.

Theories that have been debunked by political leaders to continue to cause mass hysteria, and sense of hypertension amongst people. As India prepares for the world's biggest immunization program, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) subdued bits of gossip encompassing the COVID-19 antibodies concerning impotency, rubbishing such hypotheses as "complete gibberish". Also, a conspiracy theory to implant trackable microchips by Microsoft Co-founder Bill Gates is completely fallacious as there’s no corroboration to it.

Hoaxes, doctored recordings and unrealistic rumours are arising as the absolute greatest threat to India's massive COVID-19 immunization drive, with misinformation blamed for sluggish initial take-ups. There has for quite some time been profound doubt of government health programs all through the tremendous country of 1.3 billion individuals, especially among minority networks, making a solid establishment for the multiplication of antibody "Fake news".

"People are very scared. We can't force anyone to take the vaccine, it is voluntary," a doctor at a community health centre. On the primary day of the rollout in the capital, just 53% of individuals enrolled for the immunization came forward, as indicated by the city's health minister. Nation’s Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, a Doctor, has consistently called for state and local authorities to discredit "Rumors and disinformation crusades".

The World Health Organization (WHO) communicated concern about a worldwide misinformation "infodemic" in February 2020, perceiving that the COVID-19 pandemic would be battled both on the ground and via Social media. That's because a successful vaccine rollout will depend on high immunization confidence, and viral misinformation can antagonistically influence that confidence, prompting immunization hesitancy. The spread of false information about COVID-19 poses a serious risk to not only the success of vaccination campaigns but to public health in general. Our solution is to inoculate people against false information – and we’ve borrowed from the logic of real-life vaccines to inform our approach.

False claims about infertility have long jinxed India's inoculation efforts, including for polio and measles-rubella. Scientists are already focused on how to prevent people from falling for misinformation in the first place, building on a framework from social psychology known as the inoculation theory. Psychological inoculations are similar to medical vaccines. Exposing someone to a severely weakened dose of the “virus” (in this case misinformation) triggers the creation of mental “antibodies” consequently giving psychological resistance against future unwanted persuasion attempts.

However, rather than only “vaccinating” people against individuals’ examples of misinformation, we focus on the broader manners by which individuals are misdirected. Manipulation techniques such as the use of excessively emotional language, the construction of conspiracy theories, and the false testimony of fake reports.

Furthermore, we have seen the WhatsApp Case in 2020 and how it was directed to control the flow of fake information through WhatsApp forwards. The boom in the Indian Telecommunication market in the year 2016 has resulted in a massive increase in the number of entries in the Cyber World by Indians, through this India has become more vulnerable to the spread of misinformation among the people. However, WhatsApp has taken huge steps against such forwards and at one point of time, there were advertisements too to make people aware about the consequences and dangers of such information which has neither flown from an authentic source nor have any existential substance.

“It's okay, to be honest about not knowing rather than spreading falsehood. While it is often said that honesty is the best policy, silence is the second-best policy.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy
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