The spread of the coronavirus has brought with it another threat: the spread of misinformation.
As a New York Times headline said last week the “surge of virus misinformation stumps Facebook and Twitter.”
The Washington Post, meanwhile, last week reported that the State Department believes Russia has created ”swarms of online, false personas” to use social media to distribute misinformation about the global outbreak.
The Post reported some two million tweets alleging a coronavirus conspiracy were sent over a three-week period.
“As people here in the U.S. and across the globe are turning to social media for information about this looming threat, they find these lies, these malicious actors, who are trying to really prey on our vulnerability and put us at danger,” said Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).
Coronavirus highlights the high cost of ‘free’
While social media sites generally have taken a more aggressive stance toward misinformation about COVID-19, The Times said it had found dozens of videos and photos – even websites – spreading misinformation about the coronavirus. On TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media platform, for example, a number of videos promote various conspiracy theories. Most have been taken down.
At a time when securely sharing information has become paramount, miscreants have done their best to disrupt the flow. As the ability to deliver critical information that can be trusted has become crucial, it’s become more difficult.
For companies and governmental bodies that need to go live to users, the disadvantages of “free” distribution have become more obvious. In addition to vulnerabilities of fake accounts, social media sites – like Facebook Live, for example – don’t generally give users the tools to control the entire viewer experience of a live event. Nor can you control who can watch your stream or even know who has watched it. And, of course, analytics aren’t part of the package.
The bottom line
“Some people are panicking, and looking to magical cures, and other people are spreading conspiracies,” Austin Chiang, a gastroenterologist at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, told the Times.
The World Health Organization, in fact, said there’s so much inaccurate information circulating, it feels like it’s also dealing with a parallel “infodemic” in addition to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Video, especially live video from trusted sources, is a prime example of how to combat the false information. For governmental bodies, it’s a tool to reach a vast segment of the global audience that has no – or has chosen to walk away from – traditionally delivered video, like OTA broadcast or pay TV.
Local health organizations, public safety agencies and local government also can reach a very targeted audience with live video. And, companies hoping to maintain continuity of their businesses, obviously, can use live video to conduct daily business as well as reach its entire workforce with broader messages.
“Coronavirus-related domains are 50% more likely to be malicious than other domains registered” since January, reports cybersecurity form Check Point. Many will be used for phishing, Check Point said.
Stay tuned… and stay well.