Fake news and misinformation is always dangerous but when we’re faced with a virus rapidly spreading throughout the world, this danger ramps up substantially.

Digital business solutions manager at the World Health Organisation (WHO), Andrew Pattison, has travelled to Silicon Valley this week to speak to tech firms about the spread of misinformation.

“The 2019-nCoV [novel coronavirus] outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’ – an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it,” the WHO said earlier this month.

The WHO representative spoke with Google, Apple, Airbnb, Lyft, Uber, Salesforce and Facebook at Facebook’s headquarters on Thursday according to the BBC.

While firms could see the spread of fake news and misinformation about coronavirus as a negative, Pattison says it could be an opportunity to address the problem in the greater scheme of things.

“I think what would be very exciting is to see this emergency changed into a long-term sustainable model, where we can have responsible content on these platforms,” the manager said.

However, the BBC goes on to report that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok are all directing users who search for “coronavirus” to the WHO and local health organisations.

We checked this for ourselves and the only alert regarding our coronavirus search came from Facebook with a microscopic link to WHO.

There were no calls to visit the WHO website or our local health organisation from Twitter or YouTube. It’s unclear whether this is because Africa is yet to have one case of coronavirus confirmed on the continent at time of writing.

More really needs to be done by Silicon Valley to curb this spread of misinformation. This is not just about what a politician may or may not do behind closed doors, these are people’s lives.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]
Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.