That WhatsApp group full of fake news about the coronavirus is bad for your health

The news will have reached you: 5G is responsible for the coronavirus pandemic. Or hadn't they created it in a small lab? What is clear is that you will already know that vitamin C helps fight coronavirus, as well as mugwort infusions, that you must stick a panty liner inside your mask to reinforce it and Disinfecting with lemon or vinegar is as effective as disinfecting with bleach. Well, all these statements about the coronavirus are fake news, hoaxes, completely false they have come into your life by any means: your social networks or your WhatsApp group of friends from the institute.

Since the coronavirus has come into our lives to completely disrupt them, the river of false information about how it is spread, how it is fought, how it is prevented … grows day by day. "Already In February, the WHO warned that there were two pandemics, the coronavirus and the infodemic: an overabundance of information. And it exhorted the states to take care of it and offer quality and truthful information because, otherwise, everything would be even more difficult, "he explains. Alexandre López Borull, Professor of Information and Communication Sciences Studies at the UOC.

It is not for less. In 2018, a study was devoted to analyzing different health news articles written on multiple social networks. As well, 40% of were inaccurate (or directly lie), but they were still shared 451,272 times over five years. That is almost half a million people following and spreading useless health advice at best and harmful at worst.

With the coronavirus on the street, this type of information has multiplied. Only the fact check page Maldita.es has already had to deny 432 lies about the coronavirus and From January 24 to 27, more than 13,000 entries were expanded on networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Reddit with disinformation about the coronavirus, a tendency to create false content that puts our health at serious risk.

It is important that you are informed, but more important that you are not misinformed.

How fake news affects your health

The sanitary hoaxes are dangerous for a double reason: because if the information they disseminate is false, vso follow that advice and you're going to make a mistake that will endanger your health. And on the other hand, because many of these hoaxes sow mistrust under the heading "what scientists do not want you to know", and sIf you start to mistrust the truthful information that the official organisms offer you, you are going to have a problem.

"Fake news is always dangerous because make us an ill-informed public. But there are two areas in which this danger is especially serious, one is politics and the other is health. Hoaxes can do a lot of damage in various aspects of our health, from making us believe that with certain practices we will be protected, which can cause relaxation in those habits that really can provide us with some protection or even stigmatization of certain groups with the social consequences that this entails ”, he assures Ferran Lalueza, professor of Information and Communication Sciences Studies at the UOC.

How can you defend yourself against fake news

Fear and uncertainty is what leads us not to restrain our want to share content that falls into our hands in a situation like the one in which we want, above all else, to protect our own. But there is a truth that many of us do not know and that it would not hurt to know right now: "There are studies that show that in the face of disasters such as an earthquake or an act of terrorism fake news spreads much faster than the truth”, Exposes Alexandre López Borull. With this information in your head always present, here you go five keys to detect hoaxes and, why not, combat them.

The hoaxes lurk on any platform, there is no bubble to protect you from them.

1. Consider why that information has reached you and no one else knows. Isn't it strange that you have access to privileged information? If it's so important, why hasn't anyone been on TV talking about it on the news, for example? Well, surely, because it's a lie.

2. Let the professionals work. Ok, you have a scoop on your hands, but take a deep breath and count to 10 before sharing it with your contacts, do not become the chain of transmission of hoaxes. "No hurry. Those in a hurry at the moment are the health services, but we who are simply at home consuming information should not be in a hurry to spread this type of content, ”Alexandre López Borull reminds us.

3. If you come via Whatsapp, put the information in quarantine. Whatsapp has a peculiarity, that it is not a social network although it works as such in many cases, but a messaging service, which means that there is no way to control its content or that no authorized source can access it and expose it if the information is not truthful (as it can happen, for example, if you post a nonsense on Twitter). Whatsapp is a time bomb in this regard. With that we only have interaction in whatsapp with a person who is not too rigorous when it comes to filtering content in this shared space, we already have a problem, ”says Ferran Lalueza. His advice? Whatever comes to you on WhatsApp, look at it with 100 eyes and don't share it until you have found the reliable source from which that information comes (and no, a friend's friend is not a reliable source).

Video:WhatsApp limits forwarding of the most viral messages to reduce the spread of fake news

4. Keep in mind that there are people who lie very well. "These days we must be skeptical of this type of information because the falsification of news is becoming more and more sophisticated, and sometimes it has a professional appearance or the source is directly falsified," warns Ferran Lalueza. For example, some hoaxes have used the format of international newspaper headlines or the aesthetics of the BOE itself to spread. Stay alert.

5. Combat the impulse of the Good Samaritan. Be responsible for what you spread, even if doing so makes it full of good intentions. If you have any doubts about the reliability of a content, do not share it, because if you do, you are part of the problem.

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