When whatsapp came into existence, no one could anticipate that the information shared through this platform while dealing with the impact of covid19, would be regarded as the conclusions drawn after the research carried out by a bunch of genius minds, as if whatsapp is an educational institute, the very source of ‘every thing you need to know’ about corona virus. It, sure is a blessing to have important information a click away but the vitality of fake news, misleading videos and myths can only add to the might of enemies of life and progress like coronavirus disease.
The United States of America, is currently living a nightmare because of the distress caused by coronavirus but it can neither be overlooked nor forgotten that 13 percent Americans refused to regard it as a threat in the most initial phase of the coronavirus outbreak in their country and more than 45% of the Americans were of the opinion that it was a man made virus , speaking volumes about the strength of the communication that takes place through social media platforms. 46% of the adult population of the United Kingdom reported to have read fake news of misleading information about the pandemic. And with 200 million users of whatsapp, 245 million active monthly users of you tube, identification of the real rumour mongers before the damage reaches the extended branches, is tricky and sometimes impossible!
Spread of misleading information paves a clear way for the exacerbation of the existing situation because of covid19. People getting together for ‘goumutra party’, giving rise to the rumour that drinking cow urine would prevent the occurrence of coronavirus disease, the ones reviewing the present circumstances with their biased mindsets and the lens of half knowledge, people bringing out the best of their evil side by using this time as a weapon to mug the people who would nod their head in a yes in response to anything out of fear, are not only weakening the government policies to deal with the situation but also distract people from what demands every bit of their attention. It is very convenient to compose a message and to ensure that it spreads like a wild fire, give the credit of it’s composition to a reliable and trustworthy person. Like a whatsapp forward conveying that the notable Indian cardiovascular surgeon,Dr. Naresh Trehan advised people to keep enough cash, medicines and supplies because of his knowledge about the declaration of a National Emergency in India, encouraged people to unnecessarily hoard things out of fear instilled by a mere rumour. Another forward that was claimed to some valuable information shared by UNICEF, advised people to avoid the consumption of cold beverages and ice creams to prevent covid19. It went on to encourage the readers to gargle with lukewarm water containing salt. The rumour that drinking a lot of water has the potential to kill coronavirus, deserves a noteworthy mention because the minds behind this went on to explain an imaginary mechanism in an attempt to justify the claim that lacks any scientific foundation. Consumption of lemon, garlic, powdered orange peels and the recipes shared as a defense mechanism against coronavirus disease through forwards, takes away the focus from actual preventive measures and everything that the disease indeed entails. Thousands of Indians waiting for helicopters to spray disinfectants, explains how impactful and cunning is the art of befooling through messages shared on various social media platforms.
Rumours related to covid19 have also given some people the very license to target specific communities and people and provoke everyone against them, on the grounds of them being the real culprits behind the spread of the novel coronavirus.
It is important to understand that while the governments of all the affected nations have already a list of things to deal with amidst coronavirus outbreak, the fact that Maharashtra government has registered 115 cases over fake news since lockdown, questions the degree of co operation we are extending as the citizens in these tough times. It is a punishable offence under the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 but we must not require the fear of punishment to ensure an orderly conduct after learning that coronavirus disease has already claimed over 80,000 lives!