Groups condemn anti-API ‘racism and hate’
AS the global medical community continues to try to mitigate the threat of the severe coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO) and leading social media giants are working to combat another epidemic of a different nature: the dissemination of misinformation.
Since the news of the coronavirus — a novel respiratory infection that first broke out in Wuhan, China — first broke out last month, and since the WHO has declared it a public health emergency of international concern, it has been one of the most talked-about topics on social media.
But the severity of the infection, coupled with the fact that medical professionals are still trying to fully understand the virus itself, has led to unsubstantiated and blatant falsehoods associated with its creation, spread and remedies.
Countless dubiously-sourced infographics about the virus and false claims of coronavirus cases in American cities have been shared in great numbers, causing a mass hysteria comparable to other major world epidemics like the 2013 Ebola virus outbreak.
In an effort to stop the spreading of medical misinformation, the WHO has begun collaborating with tech companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook.
Facebook, which has been linked to other major cases of misleading information and fake news, has also independently pledged that it will remove posts, photos and videos peddling lies about the coronavirus.
Kang-Xing Jin, the head of health at Facebook, wrote in a blog post, “Our global network of third-party fact-checkers are continuing their work reviewing content and debunking false claims that are spreading related to the coronavirus.”
Jin said that these fact-checkers will rate pieces of information, and if something is rated as false, programmers will “limit its spread on Facebook and Instagram” and send notifications to users who “already shared or are trying to share this content to alert them that it’s been fact-checked.”
“As the global public health community works to keep people safe, Facebook is supporting their work in several ways, most especially by working to limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the virus and connecting people to helpful information,” Jin wrote.
In an age where the growing faction of people who distrust science and proven medical procedures like vaccines, false conspiracy theories and wellness practices have also percolated timelines. Some of the most outrageous falsities include a theory that purports that the coronavirus was a bioweapon of mass destruction funded by Bill Gates to boost vaccine sales and natural remedies such as eating garlic or drinking a concoction made of bleach.
“There are self-appointed experts, people working from anecdote or making up wild claims to get traffic or notoriety,” said Andrew Pattinson, manager of digital solutions at the WHO.
Another side effect of the massively shared misinformation about coronavirus has led to reported cases of racism and hatred.
Since the coronavirus outbreak began in China and has slowly spread to a dozen other countries, the global Asian community has been targeted, with misinformed people wrongly associating individual Asians with the coronavirus.
“People with a different national, ethnic or religious background have historically been accused of spreading germs regardless of what the science may say,” Monica Schock-Spana, medical anthropologist and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins, told Time Magazine.
As of press time, the coronavirus has infected more than 17,000 people and 719 deaths, according to the latest updates from the WHO — all but two have occurred in mainland China, with the other two occurring in the Philippines and Hong Kong.
In the United States, there have been 12 confirmed cases as of Friday, February 7, which, aided with misinformation about the virus itself, has resulted in rumors against the Asian American community.
John Pomfret, a reporter at the Washington Post, wrote that “At a middle school a few blocks from my house, a rumor circulated among the children that all Asian kids have the coronavirus and should be quarantined.”
Los Angeles County officials have warned against a fake letter that had been circulating Facebook and email chains that falsely claimed that five people in Carson, California have contracted the virus and linked the names of five Asian-owned businesses to the dissemination of the virus.
The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans sent out a statement reminding Americans that the coronavirus outbreak should not be used against the Asian and Pacific Islander community.
“While the coronavirus represents a legitimate public health concern, it is not a green light to target Asian Americans and Asian immigrants with racism and hate,” the organization said in a statement. “We are concerned with the growing xenophobic rhetoric that harkens back to the dehumanizing, anti-Asian trope of the “yellow peril,” that was used during the 19th century. We have consistently stood against efforts to cast our community as “perpetual foreigners,” and sadly, we find ourselves having to do so again.”
“Many Asian Americans are just as concerned as everyone else about the coronavirus — even more so considering how in some cases, our extended families could be impacted,” NCAPA National Director Gregg Orton said. “Mass hysteria will not help, and neither will bigotry. Be better than that.” (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)