Infodemic due to Top down Misinformation

Synopsis: Domestic political actors are major source of false or misleading information about the coronavirus which is concerning many Indians. 

What is infodemic, disinformation, misinformation and fake news? 
  • Misinformation It refers to information that is false or inaccurate, and is often spread widely with others, regardless of an intent to deceive. 
  • Infodemic: It is an immense wave of information that includes false and misleading material, rumours that attempts to exploit the crisis for propaganda for profit. Misinformation accompanied with the pandemic is known as infodemic. 
  • Disinformation: It refers to false or out-of-context information that is presented as narrative or facts for deliberately misleading.  
  • Fake News: It is purposefully crafted, sensational, emotionally charged, totally fabricated information that mimics the form of mainstream news  
 What are the major sources of misinformation? 
  • As per recent survey one in four (23%) people has said Government, politicians or political parties are the source of misinformation. 
  • Only 16% are concerned about Facebook being a source and 14% said YouTube is major source for the spread of misinformation. 
  • Among messaging applications only 28% believes WhatsApp generate more widespread misinformation. 
  • Only 9% identified activist groups as the most concerning source of false or misleading information about the coronavirus. 

However, Indian authorities are mostly interested in misinformation generating from activists. 

Some recent examples of widespread misinformation during pandemic: 
  • One, ‘coronil’ the ayurvedic remedy was launched in June last year by Patanjali Ayurveda and claimed to be certified by WHO. 
  • It claimed 100 per cent recovery from COVID-19 within seven days of consuming the medicine but later it was pointed out that the license was for an immunity booster.  
  • Two, Former President of the United States and Brazilian President are prominent international examples for spreading misinformation related to corona. 
  • Three, some politicians have also claimed that cow urine can protect people against COVID-19. 
  • Similarly, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare last year came under severe criticism for recommending a range of unproved, alternative remedies to prevent or treat the disease. 
Why misinformation generating from top is harmful for the society? 
  • Firstly, Coronil episode showed how misleading information from prominent public figures and people in positions of authority can lead to bigger problems. 
  • Globally many reporters have found that official COVID-19 death tolls are far lower than the actual excess deaths during the pandemic. 
  • For instance, The Hindu found this in Tamil Nadu after comparing Civil Registration System data with the officially reported figure. 
  • Secondly, Misinformation spread by top politicians and promoted by partisan news media destroys the democratic fabric of the society. 
  • It also makes the fight against corona virus more difficult. 
  • Thirdly, though top-down misinformation from politicians, celebrities, and other prominent public figures forms a small part of the false and misleading. 
  • But they have a large share of social media engagement which results into infodemic. 

That it is why top down misinformation when people are suffering from deadly corona is more serious. It suggests that government needs holistic approach to deal with infodemic instead of just focussing on any one source. 

Source: The Hindu 

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