Fake News Litters ‘Whatsapp University,’ Incite Assam's Coronavirus Fears Further

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Fake News Litters ‘Whatsapp University,’ Incite Assam's Coronavirus Fears Further

Atiqul Habib | March 28, 2020 15:04 hrs

In this age of vast social media platforms, a wave of inaccurate information on coronavirus is spreading.

From offering unverified home remedies to tackle the virus, to floating fake advisories asking people to avoid foods such as ice cream and chicken besides sharing conspiracy theories, Indians' phones are being flooded with misinformation.

With around 400 million Whatsapp users based out of India, one can just imagine the magnitude of misinformation which is floating around the internet in this epidemic crisis.

“Since the coronavirus outbreak last December in China, misinformation, especially through WhatsApp, has risen,” said Shachi Sutaria, a fact checker focused on science and health with Boom, one of India's leading fact-checking websites.

"Normally, we don't see such high levels of misinformation around health issues in India. Earlier, we would get two to three messages a week on health issues that we would fact check. Now, we get up to five to six messages every day, much of it on coronavirus." 

Let us take a closer look at the top most circulating posts on "WhatsApp University"

Instance 1

One message, claiming to be an advisory from UNICEF asks people to avoid ice creams and other cold foods and recommends frequent washing of clothes because "corona virus when it falls on the fabric remains 9 hours.”

Another recommends heavy Vitamin C intake, yet another message lists a do-it-yourself (DIY) detection test for the virus.

Meanwhile, experts have said there is no established correlation between the variations in temperature and spread of COVID-19.

The experts said COVID-19 spreads through human contact. Mass gathering has to be avoided and people need to take precautions.

Instance 2

In another instance a post claiming from NASA has gone viral, which states NASA satellite videos LIVE telecast have shown that the cornavirus is retreating in India... The cosmic level sound waves generated have been detected by NASA’s SD13 wave detector and a recently made bio-satellite has shown COVID-19 strain diminishing and weakening.

Like seriously in this epidemic crisis the NASA has decided to track India and leave behind USA?

It is to be mentioned that previously also claims were made by “Whatsapp University” about satellite images of India on Diwali.

Instance 3

In Assam too, a recent spine-chilling Whatsapp forward is making rounds that a newborn baby after taking birth at Chaigaon warned that the world will be destroyed.

The post, where it was claimed that the baby died after asking all to light three lamps outside their homes, went viral on March 24.

The user in the post said: “Pls Everyone Share Its Not a Fake News pls as much u can Share This” (sic).

Another Facebook user shared the same news with an image where a baby with teeth is seen smiling. This FB user claimed the baby was born at Nalbari.

However, upon fact checking, it was found that there was no truth in such news of a new born baby.

Meanwhile when checked for the source of the photo, it was found that the image was taken from the internet. The image where a newborn with teeth is seen with a smile was earlier used by two websites – one is www.sadanduseless.com and the other is https://me.me.

The www.sadanduseless.com is a humour site.

Uploading the image it was written: “Welcome to the most depressive sad and useless humor site in the world!”

Babies With Grown-Up Teeth Look Terrifying.

“If you need a chuckle today (or a nightmare tonight), here’s a photo project you can check out. Scroll down to see why it’s a good thing that babies are born without teeth…”

On the website, https://me.me, the caption of the picture says: “Thanks. I hate baby’s with teeth.”

Instance 4

A post has gone viral on various social media platforms claiming that the Chinese doctor who first detected the deadly coronavirus had documented a few case files and proposed treatment for the disease.

They claim, “Breaking News from CNN:- Dr Li Wenliang, China's hero doctor who was punished for telling the truth about coronavirus and later died due to the same disease, had documented case files for research purposes and had in the case files proposed a cure that would significantly decrease the impact of the Covid-19 on the human body... What's more shocking is that these complex words that were so difficult for people in China to understand is actually called tea in India, YES, our regular tea has all these chemicals already in it.”

Upon checking out the CNN website no such news was to be found. We searched their Twitter handle for breaking news, but no such thing was reported.

Later, a report about China's whistleblower doctor on CNN was found but that article too does not talk about the medication he suggested nor does it talk about the utility of the chemical compounds of tea as claimed by social media users.

On Google search too, we found no reports that support the claim. Also, there are no reports that doctors in China are serving tea to Covid-19 patients.

Instance 5

Last but not the end of Whatsapp forwards, a post of a priest is going viral in which the said priest, before dying said, “In order to save oneself from this virus, one must drink black tea soaked in jiggery or bay leaves....this will save you from all virus.. post which the priest died.

The effect of Coronavirus and myth on what to eat and not to, have no relation with virus. The experts and even World Health Organisation (WHO) have repeatedly requested everyone to maintain “social distancing” and use hand sanitizers and masks to tackle this novel virus. 

Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

 


Indian govt launches Chatbot on WhatsApp for COVID-19

The Indian government has launched an official chatbot on WhatsApp to answer any public queries about Coronavirus and clear the myths around it. 

The chatbot is called “MyGov Corona Helpdesk” and the WhatsApp number given against it is 9013151515.

The helpdesk would provide an automated response to the queries. The news was tweeted by the government regulatory agency, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority.
 
Earlier, a national helpline number was also being launched by the government.

It is to be mentioned that the union health ministry also launched a web portal for tracking COVID-19 across India state wise. 

The website is accessible at https://www.mohfw.gov.in/, provides up-to-date infection statistics for each states. 

The website provides helpline numbers along with the total number of patients including foreign nationals which is updated every 4 hours.

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