False info on coronavirus thriving on social media

Misinformation about the new coronavirus is spreading rapidly across social media platforms, despite actions by companies to combat it, according to The New York Times.

Social medial companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter have said that they are working to quickly remove misinformation about COVID-19 and are collaborating with the World Health Organization and government agencies to ensure people are directed to accurate information.

But a search by the Times shows dozens of videos, photographs and written posts on popular social media platforms in several languages with incorrect information about the virus.

Facebook reports it is prohibiting content that could cause harm, and any posts or videos with suspected conspiracy theories are reviewed by fact checkers and marked as false if they contain unverified information. If a user attempts to share these posts or videos, a pop-up message lets them know that these were tagged as false by fact checkers.

But these efforts have not prevented people from sharing misinformation in Facebook groups. One group with more than100,000 members shared conspiracy theories that the new coronavirus was invented by the pharmaceutical industry to sell more drugs.

YouTube, a part of Google, also said it was working to prevent the spread of misinformation. Farshad Shadloo, YouTube's spokesman, told the Times that platform bans any videos promoting "medically unsubstantiated methods" to combat the virus.

But the Times found several videos that claimed to have a cure for the virus and comment sections were rife with links to unsubstantiated treatments.

"I see misinformation about the coronavirus everywhere. Some people are panicking and looking to magical cures, and other people are spreading conspiracies,” said Austin Chiang, MD, chief medical social media officer at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia.

More articles on public health:
Flu has killed 20,000, CDC estimates
US coronavirus cases rise to 238; first vaccine trials seek volunteers
New Hampshire's first coronavirus patient ignored orders to self-isolate 


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