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Government Cracks Down on Covid-19 Misinformation

Government Cracks Down on Covid-19 Misinformation

A new Counter Disinformation Cell led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is coordinating an extensive crackdown on the rapid spread of false coronavirus information. Made up of experts from across government and the tech sector, the Cell is engaging with social media platforms and with ‘disinformation’ specialists to respond to misleading online information.

Feeding into the new cell, the government’s Rapid Response Unit is already tackling up to 70 incidents a week where online propaganda and conspiracy theories are placing the public at serious risk. Social media channels have seen an alarming increase in Covid-19 related postings about what caused the virus and how to protect against catching it, as well as purported cures.

When shared via social media disinformation can quickly take on a life of its own, with potentially serious consequences such as health scares, false accusations and dangerous hoaxes. There’s currently a scourge of misinformation linking 5G to the spread of the virus, while another conspiracy theory has reported that Covid-19 was engineered in a government lab and deliberately released. In one Iranian province, many people died from consuming large quantities of industrial strength alcohol after this was reported to cure Covid-19.

Penny Mordaunt, Paymaster General said: “Holding your breath for ten seconds is not a test for coronavirus and gargling with water for 15 seconds is not a cure – this is the kind of false advice we have seen coming from sources claiming to be medical experts.” The spread of false information also undermines expert medical advice and vital information that the government needs to quickly and accurately communicate to the public.

This places a heavy responsibility on the likes of Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp. The government are working with these platforms to ensure that harmful content is quickly removed while accurate and honest information reaches users. The spread of misinformation can also facilitate criminal online activity and the government are clamping down on scammers and hackers who are seeking to exploit public concern during this pandemic.

These measures follow recent advice from the National Cyber Security Centre after it revealed a sharp rise in the number of cyber-attacks during the pandemic. This included guidance on how to spot and deal with suspicious scam emails related to coronavirus and how to defend against malware and ransomware attacks. To help the public spot false information the government is running its Don’t Feed the Beast campaign. This gives the public a SHARE checklist which includes these five easy steps to follow to identify whether information may be misleading:

  • Source – make sure information comes from a trusted source
  • Headline – always read beyond the headline
  • Analyse – check the facts
  • Retouched – does the image or video look as though it has been doctored?
  • Error – look out for bad grammar and spelling

Could you help in the fight against coronavirus? If you’re a medical locum, someone who’s recently retired from the NHS, or someone with skills who could help in an NHS role, Contracting Scout has an ideal range of fast setup and hassle-free services to help you. To talk to a member of our team, call:  0203 603 1878