With what has been happening with the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov), we should be revisiting the ill effects of the dangers of spreading fake news.
I have been travelling the past few weeks and almost all people in airports are wearing masks and I have visibly observed people avoiding Chinese looking persons or groups.
News of supposedly “positive” cases of nCov virus infections have been popping up all over the country causing a lot of panic, hoarding of N-95 and surgical masks and profiteering. It has gotten so bad that people who actually need these masks are now finding it difficult to get them.
Nowadays, people with the slightest cough or fever are immediately fearful that they already have the nCov virus when, as is usual, the culprit is the common cold. The problem is that panicking people rush to hospitals for situations where they would not usually do so.
The sad thing is that this just increases the danger of getting hospital acquired infections.
On the other hand, in some places, false reports of “positive” cases of nCoV virus infections in some hospitals are stopping people who need to go to the hospital from going. The risk being taken by these sick people, only because of fake news, is incalculable.
The panic is also causing a serious economic downturn in many parts of the country since people are becoming overly cautious and are staying at home
The truth is that there are actually just two (2) confirmed cases of NCov virus infection in our country, as of February 1, 2020. Most of the other reports are based on patients who are under observation or, worse, based on nothing at all.
In fact, many of the patients originally under observation have already been cleared and have tested negative for the virus. According to the Department of Health, there were a little over thirty (30) patients under investigation and, of those, twenty-four (24) have already tested negative.
It pays to be cautious, of course. Under the present circumstances, avoiding crowds, constant hand washing and disinfecting with 70% alcohol and even wearing surgical masks, if it gives you some peace of mind, would be reasonable.
What I am pointing out is that people should base their actions on FACTS and not PANIC.
For example, fake news videos of people supposedly dropping dead in the streets in China have led many to believe that getting the nCov virus is sure death when the truth is that it is presently estimated to have a two (2%) percent fatality rate which means that ninety eight (98%) percent of those who will get it will survive and recover and this is based on reported cases which means that, in the likelihood of more unreported cases of infected people who have recovered, the rate is probably much lower.
The nCov virus situation is only one (1) example of the dangers of fake news. People in Davao City will remember the thousands of people who rushed up Shrine Hills in Davao because of the fake tsunami scare after one of the earthquakes last October.
The thing is that what we call the “Information Age” is also the “Disinformation Age” since fake news can spread as fast as real news because of the advent of the internet, particularly because of social media.
Some legislative bills have already been initiated to try and combat this but, so far, the danger this poses to the freedom of information and freedom of speech are also legitimate issues that have to be threshed out.
The best thing we can do at present is to SELF-POLICE which simply means we have to be very careful about what to believe and, more importantly, what we share on social-media.
For journalists, there is this credo “VERIFY YOUR SOURCES” and maybe it is high time that ordinary people should learn to do this themselves.
Get your information from reliable sources, preferably government sites or, if you don’t trust the government, international organization sites like the World Health Organization and Red Cross International.
At the very least, think if the news you are getting is reasonable before believing, or worse, sharing it. I mean the photoshopped picture of a Boeing 747 with a surgical mask on its nose was funny but the fact that some people believed it to be true was sadly even funnier.