Fake COVID-19 News and Spreading of Unfounded Myths about COVID-19 Globally

Saturday, 11 April, 2020 - 00:38

On the 7th of April 2020 we learned that eight people in South Africa have been arrested for disseminating false information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.Spreading fake news is violation of the Disaster Management Act. These fake news and myths are utilizing platforms such as social media which is another abuse of the Internet. While the ICT tools and resources are useful to enhance communications, education and livelihood, it is sad to see these abuses throughout Africa. South Africa is not the first nation to arrest fraudsters. In the wake of coronavirus outbreaks across Africa, a Kenyan man has been charged with spreading misleading and alarming information essentially fake news on social media.

In an official statement from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), Kitonyo will be charged with publishing false and calculated information that could result in a panic infringing on section 23 of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act of 2018.
 
A series of attacks on phone towers with at least 20 phone tower masts were vandalized in the United Kindgom. These attachs were as a result of ignorance and fear fueled by the spreading of fake news and misinformation, namely the 5G-Coronavirus conspiracy claim. This bizarre theory seemingly spewed up from nowhere and has since been peddled by online conspiracy theorists and even celebrities on social media.

Roughly, the conspiracy theory claims that the global rollout of the faster 5G Internet is either causing or accelerating the spread of the novel coronavirus. Business Insider reports that it is difficult to pinpoint where and when the theory first emerged, but they do write that the claim picked up significant steam during the first week of April. This conspiracy theory is baseless and spun as a series of unchecked information presented as facts, but it has incurred real-world damage of property and its continued perpetuation as the truth could lead to even more severe consequences.

Here's everything we know about how the conspiracy theory began to circulate:

According to UK fact-checking website Full Fact, a version of the theory appeared on Facebook by late January.

Full Fact's first debunking of the theory hinged on a Facebook post which claimed Wuhan in China where the coronavirus outbreak first began is also where 5G began to roll out.
 
The post rested on the pre-existing conspiracy theory that 5G suppresses people's immune systems. It was posted to an anti-5G Facebook group, and was subsequently marked by Facebook as misinformation. According to Facebook, the post had just over 300 shares. There is no evidence to suggest that Wuhan was the very first Chinese city to start building out 5G, but rather multiple reports found by Full Fact said it was among multiple cities selected to pilot the technology. There is no evidence that 5G or any other kind of radio waves are harmful to people. This bizarre conspiracy linking 5G and coronavirus has taken hold in the UK and being peddled by conspiracy theorists and celebrities on social media. The theory runs roughly like this: the rollout of faster 5G internet is either causing or accelerating the spread of the coronavirus. It's hard to pinpoint the source of the theory, and BI first heard a variant of the rumour in early March, but it appears to have picked up steam during the first week of April.

SOURCES:
Luis Monzon – IT NEWS Africa
Jenna Delport -  IT NEWS Africa
Isobel Asher Hamilton - BUSINESS INSIDER:

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