The infodemic of misinformation and disinformation around the coronavirus is a serious threat to understanding how to deal with the pandemic — but this is nothing new.
The big picture: Whether the Black Death, smallpox or COVID-19, deadly diseases strike fear into people and, as scientific understanding is still gathered, stories and theories can start percolating into more serious finger-pointing, xenophobia or even violence.
The latest: Conspiracy theories, alarmist information, fake “cures” and scams are flooding people’s news feeds and social media about COVID-19. This is happening partly due to divergent messaging leading to confusion and mistrust in the government.
- Multiple entities are trying to counteract this, such as the World Health Organization constantly updating its myth-busting page and discussing erroneous information in press conferences.
- But the constant barrage has led to roughly a quarter of Americans feeling the news media is providing largely inaccurate information, per a recent Pew Research Center report.
- And, overall, this has led to growing racism and xenophobia worldwide and rising levels of hate and online toxicity.
This is not the first time false stories or misinformation sprea