Thursday, May 23, 2024

Infodemia of the pandemic

Author: Sefer Selimi Jr.

The outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic found the world unprepared for a coordinated, fast and efficient response, though this is neither the first nor the last time when in the last two decades the mankind has faced an epidemic like Sars, Swine flu, poultry and other super viruses that mutated during their evolution. Historically, mankind has been threatened many more times by the pandemics that have brought him on the verge of existence, such as the Great Plague or the Black Death widespread in 1347 – 1351 that took the lives of 1/3 of Europeans, the Spanish Flu from whom died between 50 and 70 million people or cholera pandemics that have kneeled the world more than 6 times.

The ecosystem of coexistence with millions of different species and organisms will always challenge each other’s existence, and humans are no exception in the process of natural selection where only the strongest survive, although we humans continue to build the superhuman with a stronger immune system than its predecessors by discovering protective vaccines, preparations and medical drugs that are destructive to the bacteria and microorganisms that attack us. Our immune system will continue to be permanently challenged by diseases for which we have not yet invented drugs, but also from the mutation of viruses and bacteria that are also evolving to resist existing antibiotics and vaccines, a war that will continue for as long as there is life on earth.

In the meantime, that world with its capacities is at war with an invisible enemy that knows neither race nor boundaries with the same speed is also spread infodemia, an unprecedented burst of information about the global pandemic. The change that was brought by technology in our daily communication created the preconditions for us to be bombarded with information and news from all sides, many of which are inaccurate, false or are a continuation of disinformation campaigns even before the outbreak of pandemic. Infodemia, as well as the pandemic, is socially and economically harmful for our societies, endangering not only the socio-politic and economic systems but also our collective and individual mental and physical health.

Inaccurate information, false news or misinformation about the virus, its symptoms and treatment, can directly endanger the lives of citizens. By giving wrong recommendations, different citizens can take actions that endanger their lives, the lives of their families, but also the entire district in which they live. Thus, for example, by relativizing the coronavirus with a common seasonal flu, citizens can reduce the level of care, avoid recommendations, and thus promote an even greater spread of pandemic. On the other hand, “magic medicines” from grandparents, uncertified doctor or a Chinese doctor, an Italian doctor or from another corner of the world, have the potential to encourage individuals to risk their health from the consequences of their use by not knowing how they will react or what their side effects are.

A very large part of this infodemia is encouraged and orchestrated by lucrative, opportunistic interests and for the purpose of financial gain, especially by electronic communication on the websites that distribute them. The profiteers of this war will sell you medicines, syrups, masks and everything else they can associate with pandemics and their ads appear everywhere on your social networks. This moment is golden for conspiracy theorists, anarchists, charlatans and harmful anti-democratic actors who are constantly working to undermine trust in democracy as a governing system and advance their strategic interests, especially by proclaiming the authoritarianism of leaders who with their autocratic governance are more efficient at preventing pandemics and caring for their citizens.

 In this time of pandemic, of course, we are all scared, confused and worried about the future with many unknowns; about what will happen after all this situation is over in which none of us chose to be. We have pinned our hopes on winning the war against the virus on scientists, doctors and all those who are at the forefront to protect and save our lives. But the war with infodemia we can win by ourselves with minimal effort and being a little more careful about what information we consume, taking it with suspicion and taking care not to unintentionally become part of misinformation. What we need to do is to be informed by competent institutions and people, relevant media and not to share with friends and relatives any information without analyzing it well and without doing a preliminary research about what we read. Not to be informed is bad, to be misinformed is harmful, but to misinform is dangerous.

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