False Information on the Coronavirus Surges

Laura BednarCybersecurity and Vulnerabilities, In The News

Coronavirus Misniformation Online

The Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is officially a pandemic that has touched every continent except for Antarctica. But another global crisis that is occurring is the “infodemic” of false information being spread about the disease. Social media platforms, fake websites, and email chains have presented inaccurate information about the spread of the disease, its origins, and possible cures. While these falsehoods cause more panic, they can also lead to cybercrime if not properly addressed.

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Sharing Isn’t Always Caring

The World Health Organization (WHO) deemed the spread of information about COVID-19 an “infodemic.” People on Facebook, Twitter, Whats App, and Tik Tok have been sharing conspiracy theories about the effects of the disease and are offering “miracle drugs” that can cure symptoms.

Several of the fake reports have to do with the origins of the disease. A video in Hindi has been shared on social media claiming that Coronavirus was contracted in China from people eating bats. While there has been research about the connection between bats and the virus, it remains unknown if bats were the start of the pandemic.

Other posts blame Wuhan, China as the source of the virus, while the city was just where the first reported cases were. The true source is still unknown. Somewhat outrageous claims that are circulating include:

  • COVID-19 was found in packages of toilet paper
  • Sipping water every 15 minutes will prevent an infection
  • 5G networks cause Coronavirus because they suck the oxygen out of your lungs
  • The virus was created as a biological weapon

What may be some of the worst rumors out there are ones with the promise of medicine or a cure for the disease. In addition to posts by regular users, advertisements online have attempted to sell powders and pills that can supposedly boost a person’s immune system and cure disease. Some of these were especially dangerous as the Food and Drug Administration deemed one of the “treatments” to be the same as drinking bleach.

Fighting the Spread of Ill-intentioned Information

In response to these rumors, social media platforms are taking extra precautions to ensure online users can differentiate between fact and fiction. Facebook is banning content that could cause harm like posts that discourage getting treatment or taking precautions to stay healthy. Posts that offer conspiracy theories are being marked as false after a team of fact checkers reviews them. Additionally, Facebook is giving WHO as much free ad space as they need to disseminate the appropriate message to the masses.

Twitter has suspended the owners of some accounts for spreading what they call “spam” about the virus. YouTube has also enacted policies to prohibit videos that promote methods of fighting the diseases that do not include professional medical treatment. In many cases, people have created links to fake websites and added them to comment sections on social platforms. This is a tactic for hackers to lure you to a site and gain access to your personal information.

In opposition to false claims and to promote the truth online, a gastroenterologist started the Association for Healthcare Social Media to encourage healthcare professionals to post on social media and nullify the misinformation.

Don’t Wash Your Hands of All News

In this time of a global epidemic, people look to news sources online and on television to find out what is happening and how to protect themselves. There have been some actions put in place to dispel the false claims, but that doesn’t mean all false information is removed from the internet. People are encouraged to follow the advice of the WHO, Center for Disease Control (CDC), and both state and national health departments for proper procedures.

The world wide web is one of the most effective tools for communication, but in times of trouble, it can be a nation’s worst enemy. At Secure Forensics, our examiners put your cybersecurity first and treat your device with the utmost respect in Class 10 Cleanrooms. Our team has years of experience in identifying digital evidence of cyberbullying, identity theft, data breaches, and more. If you have experienced any form of cybercrime due to the misinformation in this time of tragedy, or need a court-admissible report of evidence for a personal case, call 1-800-288-1407 to see how Secure Forensics can help.