Misinformation - Deadlier than the Coronavirus

A diagram of nCOVID 19, more commonly known as the novel Coronavirus

There is no doubt that COVID 19 has come as a surprise to us all. People have chosen to react to it in several different ways. It is expected that by now the average person has chosen to start keeping a small stock of medical and food supplies and become very aware of the situation in their community, whilst trying to remain calm.

They have also started limiting the number of journeys outside their house, and is also continuing to thoroughly wash their hands whilst avoiding to touch their face. However, there are some people who have been taking draconian measures that reflect their unrequired paranoia, and some people who couldn't care less for what they believe is "a small disease that originates from Bat Soup in a city in China". The reason for both these types of irrational members of society? Media.

There is no doubt that Fake News has been a large issue surrounding society for the past few years. This can be due to the negligence of lazy or corrupt governments, or because of ignorant consumers, or even greedy corporations looking to obtain higher TRP's. Whatever the reason, this is a major problem that needs to be addressed as the world enters a digital era.

Unfortunately, news corporations around the world have taken it in their own hands to deliver what they interpret as 'disinterested news'. This doesn't help much when it is essential for people to receive the right facts during crises like the one we are facing now.

To come straight to the point, media all around the world have tried their best to phrase the Coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic that will kill the world before you know. How do they do this? That's simple. All they have to do is take out some of the larger, harrowing numbers and leave rest of the important details.

For example, have you ever seen a news site telling you that 71,000 of the 80,000 cases in China have been cured, of that there are already 100,000 recoveries worldwide? That's right. I'm sure you haven't heard.

Why this happens? Well, that's a simple question. News reporters grasp this one, single, news story that could lead to something disastrous. They then exaggerate it to make it look as horrifying as possible. Naturally, people read the articles with the most overwhelming titles.

Unfortunately, this leads to the unrequired build-up of fear in people. They start hoarding foods, using dollops of  sanitizers, and even fighting others over toilet paper? Can you really believe it? This is all due to people following the wrong news sites, and being mislead into believing false information.

For example, news sites may use this to indirectly exert their political party preference onto readers. Or, environmental radicalists may use it as a time to come up with fake figures showing how endangered animals have come back to life because of the decrease in pollution. And unfortunately teenagers, who are most prone to misinformation, easily believe in all this nonsense and forward it through social media.

Instead of allocating resources to fight the virus, governments have to spend time (that's running out) and money on dealing with messages that say 'oregano oil is the cure to the virus', or 'the US has patented a vaccine for the virus years back', or even messages that say 'abandoning ice-cream and cold drinks prevents infection'.

There is a very simple answer to this: follow credible sources. Here are a few good sources and sites, where you can get accurate information (feel free to click on them; you will be directed to virus page on each site):

    - Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

    - World Health Organization (WHO) (this has a mythbusters page too, to clear all doubts)

    - The UK National Health Service (NHS)

    - The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

    - Harvard Health Publishing - Coronavirus Center

    - John Hopkins University - Coronavirus Center (they also have a really cool interactive map)

Here are some of the best and most disinterested news pages on the internet. It is worthwhile mentioning that whilst some are free, others are paid:

    - The New York Times (although paid, they have decided to give free news coverage on nCOVID-19)

    - The Wall Street Journal (mind you, it is paid, but it is worthwhile reading if you have a dollar per quarter to spare)

    - The Economist (something I am subscribed to, the Economist provides in depth analysis into news all around the world. It is paid, however)

    - The Financial Times (although based more on news regarding finance and politics, this paid source is something I have subscribed to; I have chosen to get the paper version every weekday)

    - Bloomberg (another great and reputed source, although paid)

Now some free sources:

    - Reuters (a free news source that is quoted by most newspapers in the world)

    - The Associated Press (another great free source)

    - CNBC (A personal favorite of mine. If you want, you can pay to get it upgraded into a premium version. However, the standard edition is great too)

In times like these, information is the greatest weapon out there. It is imperative that you know where you are getting your information from.

United Arab Emirates