Fighting Misinformation During The Ongoing Pandemic

CIOL Bureau
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While the whole world is fighting against COVID-19, the amount of fake news and misinformation circling around on people’s phones are also posing huge obstacles for the administration. In the current circumstances, infodemic is causing more issues than the pandemic. The rapid increase in the spread of misinformation which varies from providing unverified solutions for curbing COVID-19 to giving false information about the steps taken by the government is causing hindrance in managing the crisis. In a time where misinformation about this pandemic is travelling faster than the pandemic itself, there is a need for government initiatives, self-awareness as well as strict actions against those who spread this misinformation.


Even though the Indian government has taken a measure of ensuring 21 days nationwide lockdown for maintaining social distancing, they have not been able to curb the spread of fake news and misinformation. In its submission to the Supreme Court, the Central government emphasized that even though they are taking proactive steps to deal with this pandemic, fake news “is the single most unimaginable hindrance” in addressing the situation. The current situation calls for a collaborative effort from the government as well as the citizens to prevent the spread of misinformation and provide only true and reliable information.

There are many ways in which misinformation can be tackled. The Central government in its status report to the Supreme Court has said that they would create a portal for answering every query of the citizens by creating a separate unit headed by a joint secretary-level officer along with eminent doctors from reputed institutes. Apart from this, the central government in collaboration with What’s App has started a service of chatbots named “MyGov Corona News Desk '' which aims to prevent the spread of misinformation by providing reliable information about the pandemic. A similar initiative has also been started by the government on Telegram as well. The MyGov website of the government of India specifically provides a section on myth busters that presents facts while simultaneously destroying the misinformation attached to it.

Social media platforms are also taking initiatives in order to prevent the spread of misinformation. Facebook has deployed artificial intelligence to deactivate the accounts spreading fake news along with the introduction of pop-ups which directs the users to the resources of WHO from where reliable information could be obtained. Other such initiatives have been taken by WhatsApp wherein they have started a coronavirus information hub to provide reliable information with regard to the pandemic.


Apart from the initiatives that have been taken by the government and the platforms, it is the responsibility of each and every individual to check the facts of the information and if wrong, engage in counterspeech. Counterspeech is nothing but a common, crowd-sourced response to misinformation and fake news which requires public awareness and sentiments to fight it. But in order to engage in counterspeech, one ought to be informed about the topic in which he is engaging into. Therefore, it is the responsibility of every citizen to obtain information from reliable sources only i.e. resources of the World Health Organization or National Health Ministry. A well-informed person would have the capability to cite reliable sources while engaging in counterspeech thereby benefiting the general public as well.

Every informed citizen should take the responsibility to respond to every misinformation that he/she came across. This would not only help the original creator or sender to know the right information but it will also help fellow citizens to identify and categorize certain information as fake and not reliable. In this time of crisis, a practice should be developed to verify the information received either by the person themselves or by asking any other person. If that information received is false, the person should engage in counterspeech and inform the sender about the misinformation. This will help mitigate the crisis and also help the citizens get involved in informed discussions.

As World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic”. It is our responsibility to prevent it and a collaborative effort of the government, social media companies, and citizens is required. Even though the government and social media companies are taking initiatives to curb misinformation but as a responsible citizen, we have to be vigilant enough to make sure that we do not become a source of any misinformation for any other person. The only way to come out victorious from this battle is by social distancing and distancing from the misinformation.

Kazim Rizvi, Founding Director and Ayush Tripathi, Policy Research Associate, The Dialogue