Coronavirus (607) Deliberate misinformation

15 May, 2020

Extracts from NBC News article below. Full text here: https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/social-media/these-disinformation-researche...

These researchers note there is an increase in deliberate, exploitative misinformation and predict the next wave of misinformation will be even worse...

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For a handful of disinformation researchers, the information crisis that has unfolded around the coronavirus pandemic seemed inevitable...

"The Internet hasn't been built for a pandemic," Donovan said on an April episode of her webinar series, "Big, If True." "It hasn't been built for giving timely, relevant, local and redundant information, which is what everyone needs in this moment."...

"Believing that platform companies can clean this up is like believing that you're going to win the lottery," Donovan said. "They need to hire 10,000 librarians to get in there and to look at what's on the shelves, to sort, to document and to cull what is not viable, what is not useful, what is not serving the public's interest."...

Coronavirus misinformation has had a life cycle. In early March, a wave of inaccurate viral private messages warned of a federally enforced lockdown. As the virus began to spread in the U.S., so did ads and articles pushing unapproved and even dangerous treatments. Now, with most states still ordering residents to stay at home, conspiracies around vaccines and government control have overwhelmed the conversation over reopening.

For those who might be financially, politically or otherwise motivated to spread false information, the coronavirus has provided an unprecedented opportunity. The pandemic has also blurred lines between normally separate groups, uniting fringe activists and conspiracy theorists around a similar distrust of institutions like public health organizations and other government agencies.

"Second Amendment groups, anti-vaccine groups, these different networked groups that normally we monitor separately, were all there together," said Wardle, referring to small but vocal and potentially dangerous anti-quarantine protests that have popped up in nearly every state...

Starbird said the early responses to misinformation have been heartening overall, but she worries about the next wave of disinformation, which she predicts will be more exploitative.

"Where we had rumors and misinformation that looked natural, with people just trying to figure things out early on, we're seeing more disinformation, conspiracy theorizing and politicization," Starbird said. "More people intentionally — because they want to mislead or due to their own confirmation biases — are picking and choosing information that is misleading and spreading information that may be leading us away from the best collective understanding of what's going on."...

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Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org