Crisis is fertile ground for the spread of misinformation. Pandemic Covid-19 — is no exception. The BBC found an Association between incorrect information about the coronavirus and attacks, arson, loss of life. However, indirect harm of rumors, conspiracy theories and false medical information can be much higher, experts say.
“We believed that the coronavirus is a tool which the government uses to divert our attention, says Brian Lee Hitchens from Florida. — Or is it something to do with the 5G. So ignore the quarantine and had not sought help.”
46-year-old Brian is on the phone, lying on a hospital bed. His wife is in the next room. She is in critical condition, connected to the ventilator.
“The doctors trying to save her lungs, says Brian, his voice shaking from excitement. Pneumonia. And the body refuses to fight”.
Having read on the Internet of conspiracy theories, the couple believed that no virus is not there — it’s all fiction. And if there is, it is not worse than ordinary flu. And in early may themselves become victims Covid-19.
“Now I understand that it is definitely not fake, said Brian breathlessly. — Virus is. He’s outside and he’s covered.”
The danger of misinformation
Team, the air force tracks the number of victims of misinformation about the coronavirus and already checked dozens of stories, talked to victims and health authorities.
The effect of fakes on Covid-19 has gripped the world and resulted in a series of terrible events: of mass poisoning in Iran to clashes in India.
In the UK, for example, began to set fire to the towers of mobile communication 5G after in a network there was the conspiracy theory about the relationship between 5G and flash Covid-19.
As a resident of Arizona died after trying to treat coronavirus cleaner aquariums.
At the end of March Wanda and Harry Lenius heard that “prevention of coronavirus” is to use hydroxychloroquine. They noted that such a substance indicated on the label old bottles lying in their house in Phoenix.
However, the effectiveness of this drug in the fight against Covid-19 has not been proved.
And recently, the world health organization and certainly has stopped a clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine as a potential drug against Covid-19. A recent study showed that its application not only effectively, but also can increase the likelihood of a patient’s death.
Rumors about the effectiveness of this drug appeared in late January in China. The Chinese media, among whom were the state, published in Twitter the old studies of the antiviral action of hydroxychloroquine. After that, about the encouraging results after hydroxychloroquine was said the French doctor.
And although later the results of the study questioned, the interest in the drug increased.
With varying degrees of skepticism about it recalled a variety of media and influential people, in particular Tesla CEO Musk and the President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro.
President trump is also often talked about the potential of hydroxychloroquine, and at a regular briefing at the White house even said: “What have you got to lose? Eat it.” In mid-may, he went even further, saying that he’s sticking with his Board.
According to the monitoring platform CrowdTangle, each such review has caused a wave of discussions in social networks.
An overdose of hydroxychloroquine is rare, but alert the pandemic pushed people to desperate measures.
And the result was not long in coming.
In Nigeria several people were poisoned by the drug, which is praised trump. This has forced the authorities to warn people against the use of hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of Covid-19.
In early March, the 43-year-old Vietnamese brought to the hospital in Hanoi with overdose of hydroxychloroquine. He was as red as a beetroot, was shaking and couldn’t look in front of him. Director of the clinic, Dr. Nguyen said that the man was just lucky — if not for the quick response of doctors, would have ended fatally.
Harry Lenius less fortunate. A cleansing tool that he and his wife swallowed, contained another chemical was poisonous.
After a few minutes, both felt dizzy and feverish. And later began vomiting and couldn’t breathe. Harry died, and Wanda in serious condition was taken to the hospital.
Later, a woman explained why she and her husband drank a cleansing mixture. The benefits of hydroxychloroquine told Donald trump during a press conference at the White house.
In Iran, hundreds of people died from alcohol poisoning on the background of rumors about its therapeutic action.
At the end of April the total number of victims has reached 796. Cambyses Soltaninejad from the Iranian Institute of forensic medicine stated that it is the result “of fakes in social media” which talked about the healing effect of alcohol in the treatment Covid-19.
Under Islamic law, alcohol is prohibited in Iran. But local secretly “driven” brew, which may contain methyl alcohol and cause serious health problems.
The BBC learned that 5-year-old boy blinded after parents fed him artisanal vodka for medicinal purposes.
“My friend ate soap”
The US President Donald trump, who from time to time voiced not confirmed by science, the assumptions stated that the virus is losing strength from the sunlight. He suggested the use of ultraviolet light and disinfectants to combat Covid-19.
“I see that hand sanitizer kills (virus) in a minute… Can we do something similar, by injection, orally or as a treatment (body)?” — asked the American President during a briefing in the White house.
He later said that it was ironic. However, some Americans took the President’s words quite seriously. And hotline poison control centers began to receive calls asking for help.
A toxicologist from Kansas said that after the briefing of the President one man swallowed hand sanitizer soap.
Duncan Mara of the Elmhurst hospital in new York told me that his colleagues had to rescue people after the “treatment” disinfectants.
“The patients were in serious condition. Such poisoning can have long-term health effects, for example, to cause cancer and gastro-intestinal bleeding,” he says.
Arson, attacks and conspiracies
Fertile ground for the spread of misinformation became the social network. Fake assumptions travel at the speed of light and often attract more attention than truthful information.
For example, in the UK destroyed more than 70 towers of mobile communication 5G after in a network there was the conspiracy theory about the relationship between 5G and flash Covid-19.
In April, Dylan Farrell, engineer at Openreach, nearly became the victim of an attack of the enemy of 5G networks.
Working day almost over, and Dylan wanted to sit in a cafe and drink tea. Suddenly he heard screams. At first people thought that this does not apply to him, but quickly realized that was wrong.
“You have no shame, — shouted angry stranger in the passenger window of a car Dylan. — 5G kill us all!”
“I have no doubt that he would have tried to get inside and attack me, if I’d not locked the car door, says Dylan. It was so scary.”
He quickly left.
“A theory of probable harm 5G for human health has been around for several years, explains Claire Milne from Full Fact, a British charitable organization dedicated to fact-checking. — A pandemic coronavirus breathed into it a second life.”
Racial tension and clashes
In March, the who Director-General Tedros Aden Gebreyesus warned that the pandemic is intensifying “threat of the enemy.”
He was referring to the racial intolerance against the inhabitants of Asia and China, however, the virus escalated the tension in several countries.
In April in India, there have been several attacks on Muslims. Beat them after there were rumors that the Muslims are spreading the coronavirus.
At the same time, Sisi, a small village in Eastern India, there was a clash between Muslims and Hindus. It provoked the attack on the boy-Muslim, which was also associated with rumors that Muslims spread Covid-19.
As a result, one person was killed and another seriously injured.
Hurt fakes and ethnic communities. In Bradford, England, there were rumors that non-white patients are left to die.
And in Induri, a town in Central-Western India, doctors tracking potential infected, stoned. In addition, WhatsApp has spread about the video that doctors supposedly took healthy Muslims and made it injection containing the virus.
In the attack, which occurred in early April, two doctors suffered serious injuries.
Seriously ill due to fakie
Misinformation on the Internet can have a direct impact, therefore, such social platforms as Facebook said they would remove those messages about the coronavirus, which pose an immediate threat.
However, the effects may be indirect and occur later.
“I hope my wife will recover, says Brian Lee Hitchens, a patient from Florida who was a victim of conspiracy theories about the coronavirus. But if I lose her, she’ll go to a better place.”
Brian, my wife did not have a firm position on the coronavirus, they hesitated between the two theories is the invention related to 5G, or really a disease, however, is not as terrible as the authorities say. So I continued to live in the normal mode, ignoring official warnings. Brian is a taxi driver, he did not stop working during the quarantine. Went to the store, picking up medication for his wife, who suffers from asthma and sleep apnea. And even her poor health not forced him to adhere to social distance or wear a mask.
However, the virus quickly returned Brian to reality. He returned to the social network — this time to warn people about the misinformation and conspiracy theories.
Experts say that such messages can be useful in the fight against fakes than the news articles and investigations, fact checking.
The price of misinformation is the life of man
Perhaps the case of Brian — the emergency, but an enormous amount of information circulating on the Internet, you can mislead anyone. Who calls it “apodemia”.
Perhaps not all of taking fake medicines. But many refuse to believe in the reality of the virus, thereby reducing their chances of survival.
Recently in the emergency hospital in new York brought two men who were a little over forty. Both in serious condition. They were roommates and usually worked late.
After a few hours one of them died at the hands of a doctor Rajiv Fernando. The second connected to artificial lung ventilation.
Dr. Fernando asked the men why they didn’t go to the hospital sooner. They explained that I had read somewhere online that the virus is not very serious.
“They were treated at home, says Dr. Fernando, because I think it is something like ordinary flu”.
The men were at risk, but Dr. Fernando believes that, if they were not self-medicating and promptly went to doctors, their chances of recovery would have been much higher.
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of General practitioners, says that he and colleagues have seen patients who “treated” in the Internet — you make the diagnosis themselves prescribing medication. Some of them refer to the statements of the President of trump about the “healing power” of disinfectants.
Dr. Mara of the new York hospital Elmhurst said that the number of people who potentially delaying treatment, “amazing”.
Some of his neighbors were infected and died, because they believed that social distancing is not effective or that the coronavirus — fiction.
Instead of treating people with colleagues they are forced to spend time on exposing disinformation, complaining physician.
However, one cannot blame only the patients recognize Dr. Mara.
“Misinformation is a systemic problem, he says. — To blame someone else for a “cure” or bleach because people “die quietly” at home — it’s like that blame the pedestrian who was hit by a car drunk driver.”
In response to the wave of misinformation social networks has developed new rules.
“We do not allow to distribute malicious disinformation and removed hundreds of thousands of reports of counterfeit drugs, and claims that coronavirus does not exist, that it is called 5G, or social distancing — effectively,” the statement reads Facebook.
The company also says it has placed a warning marker approximately 90 million pieces of content.
A YouTube video has published a list of banned topics, which you can’t tell in the video about Covid-19. This, in particular, advertising of drugs that allegedly can cure the coronavirus, and the assertion that the virus does not exist or it is associated with 5G.
While the best laboratory in the world working to create vaccines against coronavirus infection, vaccination opponents and supporters of conspiracy theories are also not asleep. They are active in social networks — create a community, spreading misinformation, trying to influence people’s opinions.
This creates a potential threat to health, although not directly affected.
Some doctors who spoke with the editors of the air force, the biggest concern is that misinformation can completely compromise the development of a vaccine against the coronavirus, which could be an important achievement of mankind.
The future is very scary, doctors say. What they see right now, not optimistic.
“We are losing so many lives. People come too late, says Dr. Fernando new York. — And we are forced to watch them die before our eyes”.
He just finished the night shift and talked to journalists via Skype, this time with his ear hanging down shield.
Brian from Florida, the victim of Covid-19, turned to social media to those who still thinks that coronavirus does not exist.
“Just a few days ago I believed in conspiracy theories. Don’t be fools like me, and you’ll be fine that happened to me and my wife.”