All about an infodemic during the pandemic?

Featured image Infodemic 2

All about the infodemic during the pandemic

A certain story has dominated the news for the past year: covid-19. In the age of 24-hour updates and digital media, people have more access to the news than ever before… but how much news is too much?

Firstly, infomedic is when people are hastily given lots of news and information about the same topic. Whether it’s misinformation, updates, opinions and facts and some facts mixed with false information or exaggerated sources.

This could be very confusing as some people come from other countries where they do news differently e.g other countries could have only a few news channels whilst we have over 470 free tv channels, in the UK alone!

Types of problems in infodemics:

  • Satire – made-up stories that aren’t meant to be taken seriously, written to joke about the news or famous people

  • Clickbait – eye-catching but misleading headlines, designed to get people to click on links to make money or views for a website

  • Propaganda – false facts which are written to promote a political agenda or a set of ideas

  • Mistakes – sometimes accidents can happen, but a trusted source will always correct errors in their stories and say when they’ve got things wrong.

Why are infodemics more likely to happen now, than before?

Infodemics have already happened in one way or another in past epidemics, but what’s happening right now is something of a global scale, where people are connected through different means and share information more quickly. One person said; “This has created a new situation where we are rethinking our approach to managing infodemics in emergencies.”

One flagrant example of this is “Pandemic,” a 26-minute conspiracy theory video that falsely accuses Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert in the United States, of manufacturing the virus and sending it to China. The same video falsely claims that wearing masks will lead to self-infection. More than 8 million people watched the video across social media before it was taken down.

How might an infodemic make someone feel?

During covid, an infodemic can make people feel scared, anxious, confused and bit of every emotion, what to believe and what not to believe. If someone spreads misinformation about e.g. if you get the vaccine, you will contract covid quicker and would make it harder to cope, or; covid is a hoax, there’s no such thing, the government is tricking you as they want to keep a tag on you at all times, they are doing this to wipe out the elderly when the reach over 65...and so on.

The first example would probably make you feel scared because the vaccine is supposed to help. The second example might make you feel relieved that there’s no such thing so you won’t need to worry about anything. Both could make you feel confused because both of them are completely different from each other, this would mean you wouldn’t know which to follow and could be a threat to your life, and others around you. All of these examples could encourage you to do the opposite things of what your supposed to do which would lead to threatening yourself, by catching covid.

This is another reason why an infodemic is wrong, no matter what it’s about.

How might the way people interact with the news change during an infodemic?

They might not listen to particular types of news, they may only listen to the news that they believe is true for example; if you believed covid doesn't exist, you’d watch a channel that tells you the news that you believe is true, instead of watching your usual, TRUE news.

Where does an infodemic come from?

Fake news is nothing new. But, what is new is how easy it's become to share information – both true and false on a massive scale.We all share things for different reasons. Perhaps it's an interesting story, news about a celebrity that you like, or something that made you laugh.

Social media platforms allow almost anyone to publish their thoughts or share stories to the world. The trouble is, most people don't check the source of the material that they view online before they share it, which can lead to fake news spreading quickly or even "going viral."

At the same time, it's become harder to identify the original source of news stories, which can make it difficult to find their accuracy and truth.

This has led to a flood of fake news everywhere, not just the internet, but also random people you don’t even know. In fact, one study found that more than 25 percent of Americans visited a fake news website in a six-week period during the 2016 U.S presidential election.

But, not all fake news stories are found online. You could hear fake gossip by your co-workers, or anyone around you, that fail to check their facts, for example, are also guilty of spreading misinformation.

Is an infodemic a problem?

I believe that an infodemic is a problem for different reasons like, as I said before in the examples could cause stress, confusion, anxiety and happiness, over the wrong things that aren’t even true.

The main reason why is an infodemic a problem is because people might believe that wrong information is true and true information is false, this can make people have less trust in the media. If they believe the wrong information, they won’t protect themselves and the community. They could also start a riot (which is a type of protest, as we’ve learnt that in our past issue) and injure people, damaging things, families could lose their homes and go to prison. The people who believe that coronavirus isn’t real because of fake news, meet up with others, and spread the virus even more which could lead to more restrictions and more severe deaths.

People also only tend to share things that they agree with. So if people are sharing a lot of fake news, and lots of people believe it, it's easy to get sucked into a bubble that is actually completely different to the real world - and a long way from the truth.

How to spot an infodemic?

Ask yourself:

  • Has the story been reported anywhere else?
  • Is it on the radio, TV or newspapers?
  • Have you heard of the organisation that published the story?
  • Does the website where you found the story look genuine?
  • If there’s a photo or video there, does it look real and normal?
  • Does the story sound believable?

Is an infodemic most likely going to be negative or positive during this time?

As covid-19 continues to spread, there’s most likely going to be more negative news to scare you, even when it’s not true. In addition, this could also lead to scams to take your money and details by mentioning something dangerous and something that you love, like your family e.g. if you got a message saying ‘covid is more deadly and dangerous than ever and your family could have the symptoms without knowing, click on this link and give details so that we can help your family survive this deadly virus’. Lots of people out there aren’t aware of scams like this, so they could easily get tricked into giving their money. During a pandemic such as this deadly virus, as humans it is expected you will hear and see both negative and positive reaction from people, its human nature. There's always going to be a party who will not agree when another party agrees on something.

The website I used to find out all these research and facts is Newsround.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions and if you agree or disagree with my post and explain why so I can respond back.

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