TNH: Ebola responders in Congo confront fake news and social media chatter

3 May, 2019

Below are extracts from The New Humanitarian website (UN news service). Full text here: https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news/2019/05/02/ebola-responders-cong...

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Ebola responders in Congo confront fake news and social media chatter

‘There is no such thing as Ebola’

When the recent Ebola outbreak erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo more than eight months ago, rumour and distrust spread just as quickly as the disease...

Many are angry that Ebola has brought profits to some while other pressing needs have been ignored. Others either don’t believe the disease is real or think the government is using it to kill them. Some with symptoms have stayed away from treatment centres for fear it could make them worse.

Amid the scramble to contain the outbreak, social media such as Facebook and WhatsApp have provided a platform for all types of messages – true or otherwise...

One Facebook page, “Véranda Mutsanga en Révolution”, now has 230,000 members. It is both a source of information – many users ridicule others for doubting the existence of the disease or offer tips for staying safe – while other users fan multiple conspiracy theories.

“There is no such thing as Ebola,” said one user. “It’s a government lie.”...

Asked to explain what it was doing to combat the spread of fake news about Ebola, Facebook sent TNH this statement: “We're working hard to ensure we're stepping up our efforts to further understand the spread of misinformation in DRC with regards to the Ebola crisis, and continue to work with partners on the ground to better understand the issues and tackle them more effectively – our work in this area and investigations are ongoing.”...

In addition to Facebook, groups have ballooned on platforms such as WhatsApp and other chat rooms, distrusting the Ebola response – and worse – urging people who think they might have the disease to stay away from treatment centres.

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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 more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org