“Wash your hands after watching TV” – how fake news is using the coronavirus
As the coronavirus pandemic rages, the world has been flooded with unreliable news about the virus itself, the ways it spreads, and methods of fighting the infection. Some countries and / or organizations are deliberately using fake news for their political purposes
Fakes from China
“Amid the Chinese anthem playing out in Rome, Italians chanted ‘Grazie, China!” wrote Hua Chunying, the director of the information department for China’s Foreign Ministry, who published a video on her official Twitter account that appeared to show Italians applauding in gratitude to China while the Chinese national anthem played in the streets of the capital.
Amid the Chinese anthem playing out in Rome, Italians chanted “Grazie, Cina!”. In this community with a shared future, we share weal and woe together. pic.twitter.com/HYwrheCUEo— Hua Chunying 华春莹 (@SpokespersonCHN) March 15, 2020
Italians may be grateful for the humanitarian aid that China has been sending to Italy, but the video is fake: the Chinese anthem has been (rather crudely) edited in.
Italian fact-checking site Pagella Politica investigated the video in collaboration with the Taiwan FactCheck Center.
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- Iconovirus. Russian parishioners defending themselves from global pandemic by kissing holy relics
After Vladimir Putin’s call with the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte this weekend, Russia began flying medical help to Italy, an operation it dubbed “From Russia with Love.”
On Monday, the Russian embassy in the UK tweeted that “Russia to send eight medical teams of nearly 100 virologists and epidemiologists with medical equipment and disinfection systems to assist in combating coronavirus” .
Meanwhile, doctors in Moscow say they don’t have enough basic protective equipment like face masks and gloves to deal with the growing numbers.
“Wash your hands after watching TV” — a Russian columnist issues this disinformation health warning. Her piece argues that state disinformation on Covid-19 can be as dangerous for health as the virus itself.
India’s authorities weird prejudices
In India, major cities, including New Delhi and Mumbai, have now gone into a lockdown that will last until March 31.
On Sunday, the government issued a bizarre request: everyone was asked to bang plates and clap from their windows and balconies in unison at 5 pm to celebrate health care workers.
The doctors themselves, meanwhile, politely asked for equipment and resources instead.
Around the same time, an interesting theory floating in WhatsApp, and it had also been shared by influential figures like legendary Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachhan: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mass clapping strategy, it went, was to use the “cumulative vibration” caused by all the clapping and bells to “encourage blood circulation in the body,” thus forcing the virus to “lose all potency.”
Here’s a fact check of this by India Today. Spoiler alert: clapping doesn’t kill the coronavirus.
Moldova and infodemic
Journalists and activists in Moldova say they are battling an “enormous wave” of pandemic disinformation. A think tank called “WatchDog.MD” has recorded a big number of newly created websites spreading Chinese and Russian propaganda as well as click-bait conspiracy theories that seem to be designed to drive traffic.
The thinktank is appealing to Google for help.
Geopolitical disinformation in the Middle East
A massive wave of disinformation surrounding the coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, and it in particular used to fan geopolitical rivalries.
“Last week, the Saudi journalist Noura Al Almoteari, put out a tweet saying Qatar has known about the existence of Covid-19 since 2015. Earlier this month, she accused Doha of paying billions to China “to grow the virus.”
Iran’s failure to recognize virus risks?
At the end of February, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei brushed off the spreading virus, blaming “enemies” for “negative propaganda” aimed at stopping people from voting in parliamentary elections.
And at the end of last week, Iran’s health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur sent out a shocking tweet saying that “Every ten minutes someone dies from the coronavirus in Iran, every hour 50 new people are infected.”