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Coronavirus outbreak fuels conspiracy theories on social media

The News International logo The News International 01/04/2020 Syed Bukhar Shah
a group of people looking at a phone © Provided by The News International

PESHAWAR: Fake doctors and pseudo experts in their video and audio messages doing rounds on the social media are presenting unproven medical treatments and promoting a host of conspiracy theories about the outbreak of the coronavirus.

These unconfirmed reports and false and fabricated news stories being widely circulated on social media platforms about coronavirus have triggered unrest among the people, particularly the uneducated lot in the rural areas.

Since the outbreak of the disease, the so-called experts in almost every field of life have literally taken the responsibility upon themselves to convey their “research and theories” to viewers and readers to educate them on various aspects of coronavirus.

A large number of people, including students, use social media to spend time as the government has ordered closure of educational institutions, business centres, parks, and bazaars, forcing the people to stay at home.

The so-called experts consider themselves as authority on the subject and inform the people about the causes of outbreak of the Covid-19 and how one could protect oneself from the virus and to ignore the directives of the government.

It is astonishing that the ordinary people not only believe in the fabricated reports, but also forwarded them to others, thus spreading disinformation and creating confusion and panic among the public. “Many will tell you that the government is following anti-Islam agenda to close mosques and force them to abandon Islamic teachings,” said Masood Khan.

He said he had stopped going to his agricultural fields for work when he heard about the preventive measures and to practice social distancing, but some people ridiculed him for doing so. He feared the situation could become dangerous if the people did not follow the instructions being issued by the government and the health experts.

Mohammad Qasim of Asian News Eye, a news analysis web portal, observed that instead of creating awareness Pakistan’s social media was spreading confusion, fear and hatred. He said that fake doctors and hakims presented dubious methods to the people to treat coronavirus. Some individuals, he said, were uploading audio messages of those pretending to be doctors and presenting treatment for coronavirus. The entire world, he said, has banned such material on social media except Pakistan, where everyone freely presented his or her views.

The social media should educate the people and help the government to identify the loopholes to fight the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

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