How fake news still makes it difficult to cope with coronavirus

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms, Danielle Gonçalves de Assis, a medical student from São Paulo, Brazil. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Human beings crave for information, either to increase their social-cultural repertoire or, simply, out of pure curiosity. The problem with the information on the technological era is that even if the news is false, it still can circulate and reach people all over the world. In the coronavirus pandemic this situation can generate even more damage, any information that preaches disbelief in science in such a delicate moment has the power to become a dangerous weapon.  In 2020, society and, especially, the scientific community were cover by a countless number of information, whether in scientific articles, reports or discoveries about the new coronavirus, despite this, fake news were also widely disseminated and often threatened the maintenance of disease prevention and containment in Brazil. Among some of most absurd and largely publicized in the country was that the vaccine against covid-19 would be able to alter human DNA- something that obviously has no scientific basis- or even that there would be a microchip that would be implanted in the vaccinees.

It is evident that headlines like this aim to discourage the mass vaccination of the population, however, any vaccination is a collective act aimed at protecting yourself, but mainly protecting others around you. Covid-19 still is in circulation, so, the more people are vaccinated, more lives will be spared, therefore, any fallacious news about the vaccine go beyond any political, religious or personal excuse and simply can be defined as pure ignorance.  Although, for some it is easy to identify that these news are fake, it is necessary to know that 70% of Brazilians with internet have already believed in a fake news about coronavirus and that with the advent of social networks people hardly check the source of the news they just read, because they think that if it is on the internet, it must be true.

Often, these misleading headlines are disseminated in social media and Whatsapp is the leader when it comes to spreading fake news, in addition, it also is the second most used social network by Brazilians in 2020. Given this tragic scenario, it is clear that no country can afford to have misleading information going around to the population, thus, even the world health organization has already shown concern with this phenomenon and created the term ´´infodemia´´ to designate rumors, conspiracy theories and fake news disseminated in the pandemic and that have directly contributed to the increase in cases and deaths by covid-19, Brazil also created in 2021 a sort of channel, monitored by the Ministry of health, to report and investigate the veracity(or lack of veracity) of the facts. Some platforms such as Google and Facebook have also adopted measures to combat fake news, something very important, giving that digital platforms have a very wide reach and on them the untrue content can be disseminated quickly.

References

  1. ´´know the facts´´: Google releases new campaign against fake news about covid-19. Available at: https://www.poder360.com.br/midia/conheca-os-fatos-google-lanca-campanha-contra-fake-news-sobre-covid-19/. Accessed on: April 20,2021.

2.           Salviano, Murilo. More than 70% Brazilians with internet access already believed in a fake news about covid-19. Available at: https://g1.globo.com/fantastico/noticia/2020/05/03/mais-de-70percent-dos-brasileiros-com-internet-ja-acreditaram-em-uma-fake-news-sobre-coronavirus.ghtml . Accessed on: April 20, 2021.

About the author

Danielle Gonçalves de Assis, 18 years old, Brazilian, lives in Ferraz de Vasconcelos, in the state of São Paulo, where she is a first year medical student at the Mogi das Cruzes University(UMC), located in the city of Mogi das Cruzes, São Paulo, Brazil. Currently, she is a junior member of a few medical leagues in her college and she ambitious to become a permanent member in the future. 

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