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Fighting the COVID-19 ‘Infodemic’ in the Asia-Pacific

Categories: East Asia, South Asia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Taiwan (ROC), Freedom of Speech, Health, Media & Journalism, COVID-19

Screenshot of the CekFakta homepage

This article [2] by Sara Pacia is from EngageMedia, a non-profit media, technology and culture organization. This is republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Check out Global Voices’ special coverage of the global impact of COVID-19. [3]

While governments and health workers worldwide are focused on combatting the COVID-19 pandemic [4], they are also busy fighting another related pandemic that cuts across all sectors of society: a massive “infodemic” equally as wide-reaching and harmful.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes [5] this infodemic as “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”.

Verified and timely information is more important than ever – but is also more challenging to come by. The global frontliners in this fight against mis- and disinformation on the coronavirus include:

Similar efforts are taking place in the Asia-Pacific, where region- and country-specific groups are relying on constant, collective fact-checking to combat the infodemic. We want to highlight some of them in this post.

In the Philippines, for example, journalists are sharing their best practices [13] on how to accurately report on the pandemic. Internews also funded a 3-part video series [14] on how Philippine fact-checking organization VERA Files [15] is combatting the COVID-19 infodemic. For example, this video [16] debunks inaccurate claims about bats and a false report about an alleged positive coronavirus case in a Philippine province. Another video explains [17] how to protect ourselves from COVID-19.

Screenshot from #Coronavirus: Disinformation video by VeraFiles [18]

Screenshot from #Coronavirus: Disinformation video by VeraFiles

A similar Internews project [19] is present in India, where partners are continuously conducting fact checks on rumors related to COVID-19.

In Malaysia, there is ample misinformation being shared online – such as one viral video claiming that coronavirus would make people behave [20] like zombies. Malaysian media organization The Star regularly debunks [21] such false information on the pandemic.

In Indonesia, CekFakta [22] is also at the forefront of debunking false information on the virus, including myths that drinking garlic boiled in water can cure you. The collective fact-checking and verification project is in collaboration with the Indonesian Cyber Media Association, the Indonesian Anti-Slander Society, and the Alliance of Independent Journalists.

In Taiwan, Taiwan Fact-Check Center [23] has a dedicated project for COVID-related mis- and dis-information.

In Myanmar, the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) is providing the latest information on COVID-19 on its website [24] to combat countless fake news stories and hoaxes spreading in Myanmar. The MOHS is also raising public awareness through videos [25] on how the medical staff and the general public can stay safe.

The BBC is also teaching [26] citizens in Myanmar how to fight the infodemic through Thangyat or traditional folk music. It is also supporting similar efforts in Indonesia, India, Cambodia, and Nepal.

As this infodemic – arguably the first true social media infodemic [27] of our time – continues with no clear end in sight, more and more initiatives will surely start and grow. It is up to us to stay informed and do our part to sustain these initiatives, else we ultimately lose in the broader fight against disinformation.