At around the time the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread around the world another problem began to arise that was dubbed the infodemic.
Described by the World Health Organisation as “an overabundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance.”
We saw this locally early into the national state of disaster with reports that Bill Gates was developing a vaccine or that he was behind the virus. Even 5G was blamed for the spread of COVID-19.
Which brings us to an announcement from the MultiChoice Group on Wednesday.
The group has said that it has joined the United Nation’s global COVID-19 awareness campaign named Pause.
“The dissemination of credible information has become critical to fighting this epidemic which continues to impact millions across the globe and our continent,” executive chairman for the MultiChoice Group, Imtiaz Patel said in a statement.
“We are therefore honoured to be able to utilise the continental reach of our broadcast and digital platforms across Africa to empower people with vital information.”
Pause hopes to highlight the dangers of sharing misinformation during the pandemic. The campaign encourages people to pause, think and take care before sharing information.
In short, don’t just share a link because the headline stokes your ire, read it, check that the information is reliable and check the facts.
We can feel the collective eye-rolls at this advice.
“Why should I have to check anything, that’s a journalist’s job” some folks might say. And to those folks we would say, quite plainly, people lie, even journalists.
To showcase how easy it is to spread misinformation we are going to take a look at the WHO’s COVID-19 Dashboard.
On 28th March, 62 792 new cases of COVID-19 were identified representing a daily change of 12.08 percent. On 28th June that daily change was just 1.96 percent.
Using the above as a jumping off point I could wax lyrically about how the lockdown has worked and how the percent change is lower and therefore the need for a lockdown has passed. But this is only one side of the story.
On 28th June, 189 541 new COVID-19 cases were identified. So while the daily change in percentage is lower, the overall number of new infections identified in a day compared to four months prior is much higher.
This sounds like a basic example and that is the point. It’s very easy to manipulate data to serve a narrative if you only provide the reader with a slice of the data.
And this appears to be what Pause, and other campaigns like it want to address.
For its part, MultiChoice group will seek to insure that its news and educational content is factually accurate.
This started on 30th June with the launch of Pause. MultiChoice Group used DStv, GOtv and Showmax to broadcast critical information.
You can also sign up to be an Information Volunteer. With this you will get a daily or weekly briefing with accurate information that you can share with your friends, family and social media followers.
You can sign up for that here.
“We are in a moment of global reckoning as COVID-19 and its social and economic consequences challenge the world in unprecedented ways. Misinformation, hate speech and fake news are fueling and distorting all of these challenges and eroding the truth. We are very excited to have MultiChoice on board as a supporter giving the launch of our campaign reach across Africa. They are uniquely positioned to deliver this important message to their diverse audiences across the continent,” said senior advisor for Global Communications at the United Nations, Robert Skinner.
Think before you share folks.