There have been various conspiracies regarding the spread of the coronavirus and how to prevent it since it first broke in Wuhan, China, last year. Over the weekend, there was a viral coronavirus outbreak in Utrecht, Netherlands, but this time it was in the form of conspiracies shared on messaging app, WhatsApp.
Conspiracy message about COVID-19 goes viral in an hour
There were messages doing rounds on WhatsApp telling people that drinking hot soup can stop COVID-19 or to test whether one is infected with the virus; they should hold their breath at least for 15 seconds. The messages shared between relatives and friends and quickly went viral in contradiction to official medical advice about the virus.
At 11 am on Sunday, 63-year-old Ivonne Hoek said that a friend sent her the message saying that they had received it from a neighbor working in a hospital. Considering the nature of the COVID-19, she felt this was important and shared with her two children. Her son Tim van Caubergh forwarded the message to his entire Frisbee team, and by 11:36, the message had been shared to over 65 people.
Tim indicated that he would not have given the message much attention had it come from a strange. He added that he trusts his mum a lot and thought the message was worth sharing because it was from a trusted source.
The coronavirus has infected over 200,000 people with more than 9,000 fatalities globally. It has brought economic misery to millions of people. According to the World Health Organisation, it has been accompanied by a lot of misinformation.
Social media platforms becoming hard to police for misinformation
Because of widespread misinformation, social media companies Facebook and Twitter have moved to bar users from posting any kind of misleading information about COVID-19. This includes expert guidance denials as well as the encouragement of false treatments. The quick spread of such messages, as witnessed in Utrecht, indicated the challenges social media platforms face. Places like WhatsApp are hard to police, and they have been spreading fake information.