Data, fake news and the importance of good Journalism in the fight against Covid-19

“Coronavirus is being spread around the world through radiation from 5G masts.” “Ingestion of disinfectants in the human body is an effective treatment against COVID-19.” “The virus cannot spread in warmer places.” From conspiracy theories to miraculous healing formulas , digital platforms and social networks seem to be spreading an uncountable amount of fake news concerning the pandemic cycle of Sars-Cov-2 around the world.
It is undeniable that the pandemic has accelerated the phenomenon of hyper-connectivity, reinforcing the notion that we are part of a data driven society, that is, a world in which activities, routines and business models revolve around the wide spread of data. Today, there is almost no separation between the online and offline worlds, such that individuals, even from their homes, are uninterruptedly bombarded by allegations, reports, news and information of the various kinds.

In this context that highlights big data and an ultra-fast spread of information, as very well pointed out by Korean philosopher Byung Chul-Han, there is an increase in the relevance not only of the knowledge of health professionals, such as virologists and epidemiologists, but also of experts in the fields of computer science, new technologies and manipulation of big data.

In view of that, many are the challenges faced by professionals who seek the truth of the facts, such as official bodies, researchers, the press and media outlets in general. In an essentially digital world, in which new technologies and the variety of platforms, vehicles and sources end up contributing to the spread of inaccurate and false information, the relevance of fact-checking organizations grows even more, that is, platforms that seek to certify the veracity of statements and disprove rumors circulating through social networks.

As an example of the commendable use of this immensity of data available in the digital sphere, the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) stands out, a coalition formed by more than one hundred media outlets from approximately seventy countries which launched, in January of this year, the #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, a free, collaborative platform developed to act on the front line in the fight against “infodemia” – chronic spread of untrue data – and that, since its launch, has carried out more than 3,500 fact-checks about COVID-19, proving to be an important tool against misinformation.

There is no doubt about how the Information Age reinforces the importance of professional journalism in upholding fundamental freedoms and rights, as well as strengthening our democracy. In any case, during a pandemic crisis, more than ever, the responsibility and the commitment of every citizen to the collective increases, especially in order to prevent, like the spread of the virus, the unrestrained transmission of fake news. In a world where a single click can resonate on the other side of the planet, filtering, double-checking and always searching for the sources of news before sharing them are measures as relevant as medical and sanitary recommendations.

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