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Are universities punishing students ‘over common cold’?

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 21:28

By Polygraph

Dominic Gregorio
senior, University of Pennsylvania
“I wish the economy and the academy were not so easily incapacitated by the common cold. I wish (U. Penn) President Gutmann had heard the COVID-19 mortality rates in the U.S. were just above 0.1 percent, very similar to the seasonal flu, and acted like it.”
Source: The UPENN Statesman, March 18, 2020
False
COVID-19 is no common cold

In a blog written for the UPENN Statesman, a University of Pennsylvania student newspaper, Dominic Gregorio, a university senior, expressed his frustration over the Philadelphia school’s decision to cancel all on-campus commencement events. Instead, the school will hold a virtual ceremony for live broadcast.

Larry Jameson, Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine, and six other leaders of large academic health systems urge national leadership to resist pressure to lift tough social restrictions intended to subdue the coronavirus outbreak. https://t.co/uR9B4K2aIk

— Penn (@Penn) March 25, 2020

The decision was based on the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control “to protect the health of our graduates, their families, alumni, and faculty and staff,” Amy Gutmann, the university president said in a message March 16.

“I regret that this semester has been upended in so many ways. But in our lifetime the world has not faced a challenge as unique and complicated as the one that we currently confront,” she said.

Dominic Gregorio, a U. Penn senior, responded on March 18 in a UPENN Statesman article headlined, “Penn stole our senior year over the common cold.”

Penn stole our senior year over the common cold | The UPenn Statesman https://t.co/81PKl9GVX3

— Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd) March 22, 2020

Gegorio accused the university of an “over-the-top” response to coronavirus and of “robbing” the 2020 class of “the only senior year we’ll ever have.”

“I wish the economy and the academy were not so easily incapacitated by the common cold. I wish President Gutmann had heard the COVID-19 mortality rates in the U.S. were just above 0.1 percent, very similar to the seasonal flu, and acted like it,” Gregorio wrote. “I don’t care,” he added, about spreading infection.

Claims that COVID-19 is a common cold and that mortality rates are “just above 0.1 percent” are false.

The virus that causes COVID-19 has been identified as SARS-CoV-2, or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. There is no vaccine or special treatment. After being discovered in December in China, COVID-19 by mid-March became a global pandemic – third in 100 years after the 1918-19 Spanish flu.

What coronavirus symptoms look like, day by day pic.twitter.com/k4IVK4QX2m

— Tech Insider (@techinsider) March 18, 2020

The number of people infected worldwide is approaching a half-million (451,355 as of March 25), and the death toll is past 20,000 (20,499).

When describing the COVID-19, doctors, scientists and epidemiologists worldwide say they “have never seen anything like it,” and that it is “not like flu.”

This story by National Public Radio spells out many of the differences between COVID-19, the common cold and seasonal flu.

Here are eight of them:
  1. COVID-19 is novel, or new. That means there’s no vaccine, and it’s unclear how it will manifest;
  2. This strain of coronavirus appears to infect two to 2.5 people versus 1.3 with the flu, so coronavirus seems to be about twice as contagious as the flu;
  3. Some 20% of coronavirus patients are in serious enough condition to go to the hospital, 10 times the number who wind up in the hospital because of the flu;
  4. Hospital stays for the coronavirus are twice as long as for the flu;
  5. About 8% of people get the flu every year. Some estimates are 25% to 50%, possibly up to 80%, could get the coronavirus without drastic actions being taken by individuals, states and municipalities and the federal government;
  6. The coronavirus could be 10 times deadlier than the flu — about 0.1% who get flu die. It’s estimated that about 1% of those who have gotten coronavirus have died from it;
  7. There are treatments for the flu. There are no approved treatments for the coronavirus, despite the president’s optimism for certain drugs, which are untested for coronavirus to this point; and
  8. The flu tends to wane in warm weather, but it’s too soon to count on that for coronavirus, which is thriving in warm, tropical places.

Like Gregorio, hundreds of thousands of American students have expressed frustration about COVID-19’s impact on campus life.

Early news coverage of the COVID-19 disease said it appeared most dangerous for older adults and people with chronic illnesses and presented a low risk of death for younger, healthy people.

That has changed with the U.S. epidemic data.

“Today I have a message for young people: You are not invincible, this virus could put you in hospital for weeks or even kill you. Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyes, director general of the World Health Organization warned on March 21.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

All’s fair in love and war: Democracy in a state of emergency

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 21:20

Photo: Health screening at Shanghai Pudong International Airport by Ptrump16 under CC BY-SA 4.0

By Corina Rebegea, for CEPA

In the fight with the global COVID-19 crisis, many leaders are adopting a wartime discourse. The measures imposed—lockdowns, postponed elections, and surveillance—buy time, but they go beyond anything most people in the Western world have seen since the 1940s. Alarm bells are sounding in some quarters about that. Hungary’s state of emergency is particularly draconian. Groups such as Freedom House and Access Now are urging governments to consider the implications of their actions and inviting local civil society groups to keep a watchful eye on potential abuses of the constitutional framework regulating emergency measures. 

But an even larger question arises from the (perhaps temporary) new normality in which offline action has become almost nonexistent. The dangers of virtual spaces, such as disinformation and algorithmic manipulation—were already in focus before the pandemic. Disinformation campaigns and computational propaganda worldwide have already exposed how unprepared our legal systems are to deal with campaigning, advertising, and publishing online, as well as how unprepared our citizenry is for a barrage of virtual manipulation. Those worries are compounded by a new reality that all but forbids physical presence.

In the United States, political campaigns are going virtual, heralding the at least temporary end of basic democratic processes such as door-knocking, community organizing, rallying, and (perhaps) voting at polling stations. There is not enough time to create a new voting system; only a handful of countries, notably Estonia, have a robust and proven system for electronic ballots. The most likely immediate consequence is delay. 

But democracy is about more than elections. Even in normal times, the space for civil society is shrinking as governments and commercial pressures encroach on association, assembly, and expression: protests, marches, town halls, and participation in public consultations and decision-making. What will happen with these processes in an era of quarantine and lockdown? In countries with a shorter democratic experience (such as most of Central and Eastern Europe), building such habits and empowering civil society to exercise scrutiny and demand accountability was incomplete when the pandemic struck. With citizens already fatigued by disinformation, anxieties about health will further strain public trust. Those involved in politics and activism need to start thinking now what they can do to carry out their mission effectively and safely. 

While the authorities deal with the health emergency situation, civil society can use this time to regroup. Some, such as TechSoup Europe are already planning online training and events. Perhaps this is also a time for more policy-oriented reflection: at the height of the Second World War, William Beveridge was working on plans for Britain’s post-war welfare state. Donors too have an opportunity to rethink their focus. 

Finally, technology companies and internet giants can start acting upon their promise to support democracy, rather than contribute—however inadvertently—to its weakening. Discussions about the link between technology and democracy started before the pandemic. Now would be a good time to accelerate them.  

By Corina Rebegea, for CEPA

Common Crisis is a CEPA analytical series on the implications of COVID-19 for the transatlantic relationship. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

Corina Rebegea is a Program Director, founder of the U.S.-Romania Initiative and Fellow-in-Residence. Corina works on democracy and rule of law issues, good governance, and public sector leadership, as well as transatlantic security cooperation and Black Sea security. She also leads the center’s programming on democracy, media literacy, and countering disinformation.  

Categories: World News

Russian senator falsely claims poles closed airspace to virus aid

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 20:37
An updated version of a story about the claim that Poland closed its airspace to Russian military aircraft bound for Italy

By Polygraph

Alexey Pushkov
Chairman of the commission on information policy of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament
“Poland did not let Russian aircraft carrying aid to Italy pass through its airspace. This is meanness at the level of public policy. Moreover, the help was for an ally of Poland in the EU and NATO. From now on, Russia should not meet Poland half-way, on any issue.”
Source: Sputnik, March 23, 2020
False
Poland disputed claims by a longtime antagonist.

On March 24, Alexey Pushkov, a member of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament, tweeted that Poland had closed its airspace to Russian military aircraft delivering aid to Italy.

“Poland did not let Russian aircraft carrying aid to Italy pass through its airspace,” Pushkov wrote on his personal Twitter account.

“This is meanness at the level of public policy. Moreover, the help was for an ally of Poland in the EU and NATO. From now on, Russia should not meet Poland half-way, on any issue.”

The Russian state-owned media outlet Sputnik picked up the story. It initially reported that Poland had blocked the Russian aid aircraft while noting that neither the Polish Foreign Ministry nor the Russian Defense Ministry had confirmed the information.

Pushkov’s tweet was later deleted, and the Sputnik story and headline were changed to reflect the new information.

Pushkov’s claim is false.

Poland’s Foreign Ministry denied closing its airspace to Russian aid for Italy and reported that it had received no request for access from the Russian military.

A Sputnik story based on Pushkov’s tweet. The story was updated on March 24 with a new headline, but the URL still displays the original. Twitter link to the Sputnik story with the original headline

Chairman of the Committee on (Dis-)Information Policy of the Federation Council (the upper house of the Federal Assembly of Russia) spreading #FakeNews about Poland blocking an airlift with Russian aid for Italy.

A clear victim of the #COVIDIDIOTS pandemic in Russia. pic.twitter.com/n2v6AVhIF2

— Sławomir Dębski (@SlawomirDebski) March 24, 2020

Attention: another #FakeNews on the #coronavirus pandemic.

Russia did not request entry into Polish airspace.
The news of Poland’s alleged refusal is baseless and untrue. pic.twitter.com/8bL6eSBjj8

— Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Categories: World News

The community of collapse

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 20:10

By EU vs Disinfo

The Kremlin, the conspiracy theorists and the coronavirus

In an article last year, EUvsDisinfo described the dialogue of disinformation. Disinformation outlets need to adopt to the audience, carefully map and understand sentiments, prejudice and ideals. Lies are best if they resonate with the worldviews, superstitions and archetypes of the intended audience.

The COVID-19 outbreak illustrates this dialogue of disinformation very clearly. Take for instance the trope about the COVID-19 being an American artificially created virus. This is the very first example of disinformation in the EUvsDisinfo disinformation database on the current outbreak: A new Chinese coronavirus was likely elaborated in NATO biolabs.

The same week, Sputnik’s Arab language service repeated the claim about the US origins of the virus. This piece of disinformation really resonated with the audience, and was republished in dozens of Arab language websites, including a fake BBC site.

Pointing Fingers

Well, pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets are not prejudiced and happily point finger in any comfortable direction. There are examples of cases in the database, suggesting the culprit is China, the country is hiding the real numbers of deaths of the disease. The UK is another alleged malefactor, as are the usual villains in the disinformation outlets’ play book: Bill Gates, Soros, the “Global Elites”, the Belarusian opposition

Conspiracy theories are not a prerogative of pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets. Most of the above-mentioned tropes can be found in abundance anywhere on the web. But the articles above are from state-funded, mainstream channels, managed directly by the Kremlin or by oligarchs, close to the Kremlin. Sputnik is funded by the federal budget, TV Zvezda belongs to the Russian Armed Forces. We are not referring to strange, fringe publications, but to mouthpieces of Russian officialdom.

The dialogue of disinformation can be illustrated through the relationship between various forms of pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets:

  • Sites, openly belonging to, or affiliated with, Russian state structures. In this group we find RT, Sputnik, Russia Beyond, New Eastern Outlook;
  • Sites, registered in Russia and with open and obvious connection to pro-Kremlin circles: Examples are Geopolitica.ru, Katehon.com, News Front
  • Sites, registered in Russia, but with more or less hidden connections to the Kremlin or other Russian structures. Here we find Strategic Culture Foundation, South Front, Oriental Review, One World, Info Brics
  • Sites, registered outside Russia and with no apparent ties to Russian state or Oligarch structures, but with an openly pro-Kremlin agenda: Russia-Insider, Russian-Faith, The Duran, The Saker, Fort Russ News
  • And, sites, registered outside Russia, supporting pro-Kremlin narratives, while having no apparent ties to Russia: Global Research, Unz Review, Veterans Today, The Alt World…

The connections between this last group and Russian officialdom can be hard to spot. Usually, the narratives forwarded on key issues follow the Kremlin lines to take very closely. Searching for “Syria”, “Skripal” or “MH17” on those sites yields results, identical to the Kremlin media’s. Contributors to those sites are usually frequent guests at RT/Sputnik or other Kremlin state channels. And occasionally, one can find individuals, connected to Kremlin, or Russian oligarch structures, in editorial boards or as guests at RT/Sputnik.

The Manufactured Chaos

Russian New Eastern Outlook suggests Bill Gates as one of the villains behind the outbreak. This article is quickly shared by Global Research in both English and French. The article is translated into Italian and Swedish as well.

The same Russia-based, state-funded outlet identifies the COVID-19 outbreak as a designated plan to throw the world into chaos:

Simply put, there are actors out there that can and would unleash a global pandemic as a component in a long term “chaos theory” operation.

Those same actors would do so and have, over and over, no matter the cost in human lives. I think one can now safely point to 9/11 and its aftermath as one such operation.

One might also cite several regime change efforts as well and even fill in the names of nations involved, the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Again: this is NOT your foil-hat fringe-conspiracy uncle waffling during an awkward family dinner: this is from a site, managed by the Russian Academy of Sciences’ (yes, Sciences) section for Oriental Studies. A reputable institution that lends itself to distribution of lies.

South Front, again, compares the COVID-19 outbreak with 9/11, the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York 9 September 2001:

We are now experiencing 911-2B, the coronavirus black swan. Just as 9/11 terrorized, shocked, and shut down the USA for a few days, it seems that Covid-19 will do the same, only more so. Instead of a few days, we may be shut down for a few months, maybe even a few years. And once again, Zionists are hysterically pushing back against those of us questioning the official story. 

In this case, South Front published an article from the US-based Unz Review. This article is quickly spread to other pro-Kremlin sites and translated into French.

Against Vaccination

Disinformation spreads virally through a complicated network of sites. The purpose of this disinformation is to sow distrust in authorities, media, and expertise – even the health-care system. Quoting Russian South Front publication of Canadian Global Research’s article on the COVID-19 outbreak:

After the pandemic has been officially declared, the next step may be – also at the recommendation either by WHO, or individual countries, “force vaccination”, under police and/or military surveillance. Those who refuse may be penalized (fines and / or jail – and force-vaccinated all the same).

South Front/Global Research describes the COVID-19 outbreak as a fake pandemic, set up by the “Anglo-Zionist Empire”, just waiting for the right moment to launch their cunning plan:

The final decision to go ahead NOW, was taken in January 2020 at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos – behind very much closed doors, of course. The Gates, GAVI (an association of vaccination-promoting pharmaceuticals), Rockefellers, Rothschilds et al, they are all behind this decision

In the author’s universe, the COVID-19 the schemes spun behind “very much closed doors” aim at introducing force vaccinations, nano-chips being injected into our bodies to control us.

If indeed force-vaccination will happen, another bonanza for Big Pharma, people really don’t know what type of cocktail will be put into the vaccine, maybe a slow killer, that acts-up only in a few years – or a disease that hits only the next generation – or a brain debilitating agent, or a gene that renders women infertile …. all is possible – always with the aim of full population control and population reduction. In a few years’ time, one doesn’t know, of course, where the disease comes from. That’s the level of technology our bio-war labs have reached (US, UK, Israel, Canada, Australia…).

This anti-vaccine trope can be found occasionally in the disinformation Mirror Land: Fundamentalist Christian Russian Faith comforts its readers that the Church of Russia denounces any plans for compulsory vaccination. The same outlet share RT content on prayers in Moscow to fight the virus.

It is impossible to say who is piggybacking whom. Is the Kremlin using those sites to spread their narratives, or are the owners of various conspiracy theory sites using the Kremlin to finance their own ambitions? And does it matter? Health care professionals, national, European and International organisations are focusing on addressing the challenges of a pandemic outbreak. The pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets are jeopardising the battle against the disease.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

Sputnik: Coronavirus could be designed to kill elderly Italians

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 02:46

By EU vs Disinfo

In a time that calls for international cooperation to fight a common threat, Kremlin mouthpiece Sputnik chooses to spread disinformation about COVID-19. 

A Sputnik article published on 15 March promoted an entire catalogue of unfounded theories about the origin of the coronavirus: from the idea that COVID-19 could originate in Latvia to the suggestion that it could have been created as a means to reduce the number of elderly people in Italy.

What makes Sputnik want to misinform audiences about the origin of the coronavirus in this way? And how exactly is Sputnik linked to the Russian authorities? 

Cui bono?

The article in question was published in Russian by Sputnik Latvia under the headline, “Coronavirus Invented in Latvia? Why Not?” and suggested to look for who could benefit from the crisis. 

According to the publication, COVID-19 could serve the interests of The Communist Party of China to stop protests in Hong Kong; governments challenged by the Yellow Vest movement; Italy to limit the economic burden of retired citizens; and Europe as a whole to not let in refugees via Turkey. 

Sputnik promoted a series of conspiracy theories about coronavirus under the headline, “Coronavirus Invented in Latvia? Why Not?”. Screenshot from Sputnik.

In addition, Sputnik suggested that COVID-19 could help Greta Thunberg to promote her green agenda; European tourist magnets Prague, Barcelona and Venice to limit noise and garbage; and feminists to see more women on corporate boards, as the virus is allegedly more dangerous to men than to women. 

Finally, in the spirit of the saying that “all politics is local,” Sputnik suggested that the virus could be used by Latvian authorities to postpone local elections in Riga, as well as to further a number of other potentially unpopular measures, using the virus challenge as an excuse.

Part of a tendency

Sputnik Latvia does not stand alone; also other branches of the Russian state-owned media outlet have disseminated conspiracy theories about COVID-19.

Sputnik in Arabic has speculated that coronavirus could be an American biological attack; that president Trump ordered such an attack to happen and that it has been manufactured to target Asians.

Sputnik Mundo – the Spanish language branch of the Russian state media network – has spoken of COVID-19 as an American biological weapon. Screenshot from Sputnik

In Armenia, Sputnik has suggested that the coronavirus was created in a laboratory and labelled the virus an example of hybrid warfare. In Azerbaidjan, Sputnik has presented COVID19 as a tool to weaken Chinese economy, as has Sputnik’s branch in Belarus.

Also in Belarus, Sputnik has suggested that coronavirus could have been developed in NATO biological laboratories, while the branch in Georgia has spoken of the epidemic as not accidental and with economic goals.

Sputnik’s Spanish language branch has suggested that COVID-19 could be an American biological weapon; as a means to isolate China and to spread panic and divert attention from unpopular issues, such as Brexit.

Under the Kremlin’s direct control

With headquarters in Moscow, Sputnik operates news websites in more than 30 languages and countries worldwide.

Together with RIA Novosti and InoSMI, Sputnik comprises the state news holding Rossiya Segodnya whose CEO is the EU-sanctioned Dmitry Kiselyov. The holding shares its editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, with RT (Russia Today).

Sputnik’s CEO is the EU-sanctioned Dmitry Kiselyov. He is also the host of a Sunday night show on state-controlled TV Rossiya 1

Rossiya Segodnya is funded by the Russian government. According to the draft budget for 2020-2022, Rossiya Segodnya will receive on average 106 million euros per year in subsidy.

Sputnik’s editorial policy is subject to direct control from Russia’s presidential administration through a practice known as “the weekly meetings.” 

The Rossiya Segodnya holding was created by a Presidential decree with the aim to “report on the state policy of Russia abroad”. That leaves no other option but to conclude that the current aim of Russia’s policy is to confuse, rather than inform about the threat from COVID-19.

Follow this link to the EUvsDisinfo database to see other examples of pro-Kremlin disinformation about the coronavirus; follow this link to see other examples of disinformation spread by Sputnik.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

Disinformation can kill

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 02:39

By EU vs Disinfo

There is only one priority now: all national, European, and international resources are focused on containing the COVID-19 outbreak. The virus is spreading fast; hundreds of thousands are ill, thousands are dying. Lives depend on accurate and timely information. As Josep Borrell, head of the European External Action Service, said at a press conference earlier this week: “Disinformation is playing with people’s lives. Disinformation can kill.

This dangerous game has gone on for two months now. The first piece of disinformation we recorded on the coronavirus appeared in Russian state-funded Sputnik News on January 22nd. The narrative was in place from the beginning: the virus is man-made; a weapon created by NATO. With minor variations, we see the same claim repeated ad nauseam this week. The US constructed the virus; the Pentagon did it; the ruling elites… The purpose of this supposed fiendish scheme is to introduce world tyranny and secure American hegemony; third world countries – indeed anyone living south of the 40th parallel! – are the target of the Evil West.

Sowing Distrust

On the one hand, pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets claim that the outbreak is a hoax. On the other, they indulge apocalyptic scenarios, suggesting that due to the pandemic the Schengen system has collapsed, NATO will dissolve, the EU is paralysed, the Baltic states are doomed, there are no doctors in Lithuania, and Ukraine is in free fall. The entire project of “globalisation” is over! The coronavirus is the EU’s Chernobyl. But then the whiplash comes again: The virus is not dangerous at all. It can be cured with saline in four days, what’s the problem?

The problem is that the virus in fact cannot be “cured with saline”. Anyone following this advice risks not only their own health, but also the health – or worse, the lives – of other people.

Almost half of this week’s disinformation cases are devoted, in one way or another, to the COVID-19 outbreak. An overarching goal of this campaign is to sow distrust wherever possible: in the healthcare system (it’s controlled by Big Pharma to introduce mandatory vaccination!), national institutions (like in Sweden, where they are controlled by oligarchs), the EU (it’s just failing all in all), and the World Health Organisation (it’s an instrument of the government – what government, you ask? The shadow government!).

Meanwhile, the pro-Kremlin disinformation ecosystem parrots official claims about the situation in Russia being “under control” without going into much detail about this alleged achievement. The country has not fallen for the mistake known as “democracy”.

We Stand Together

The COVID-19 outbreak is a global challenge that needs to be addressed at all levels of society: we have a responsibility as individuals to make sure we don’t spread the virus and take care of each other. Municipalities, regions, and states all have obligations to secure medical services, take care of the weakest and most vulnerable among us, and maintain public order. Academia and the wider research community, the private sector, the EU, the UN, and other regional and international bodies all have their designated responsibilities and functions. In the end, the effectiveness of the global response boils down to trust and cooperation.

The Kremlin’s disinformation machine is seeking to undermine this essential solidarity at a time when disinformation can well and truly kill.

Stay up-to-date on EU measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak here. We stand together.

Other topics this week:

Stay healthy; don’t be deceived.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

People are getting a lot of coronavirus news from traditional media, but they trust information from their employers more

Wed, 03/25/2020 - 03:22

By Hanaa Tameez, for NiemanLab

The coronavirus pandemic continues to throw salt in the wound we journalists have about the public’s trust in news.

The communications firm Edelman published a special edition of its annual Trust Barometer Report that highlights the role that the private sector must play in informing people about the coronavirus crisis.

Unfortunately, the study also underscores the public’s conflicting views of the news media.

From CEO Richard Edelman:

Given the present state of low trust, business will have to fill a further void, that of credible information. It is urgent that we enable fact-based decisions and allow our employees to feel part of a broad societal movement to fight this plague. For CCOs, it is time for you to initiate regular briefings for employees by your chief scientist or medical officer, to provide trustworthy content that can be shared with employee families or community, to reach out to government to cooperate in work-at-home initiatives and to ensure that the company’s social channels are contributing to knowledge and not panic.

I rolled my eyes too, reader.

Between March 6 and 10, Edelman surveyed 1,000 people in each of 10 countries: Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Those include some of the largest outbreak sites in the world, like Italy (59,138 confirmed cases), the U.S. (39,262), and Germany (27,047).

Overall, the study found that employers are considered to be the most credible sources of information related to coronavirus.

“Sixty-three percent said that they would believe information from

[their employer]

after one or two exposures, versus 58 percent for a government website and 51 percent for traditional media,” the report says.

On average, 70 percent of respondents are following coronavirus news daily. In Italy, 93 percent of news consumers are checking in daily while that drops to 50 percent in Germany.

Whatever their problems with trust, news organizations still win out in bulk — they are the most common source of coronavirus-related information. The survey found that 64 percent of respondents get most of their coronavirus-related information from major news outlets. Japan and South Korea top the list at 73 percent, while the lowest is 52 percent in France.

But journalists ranked dead last when respondents were asked what information source they trusted to tell the truth about the virus, at just 43 percent. “The news media” collectively, though, scored a little better at 50 percent. But that’s still lower than “a person like yourself,” at 63 percent.

How much you trust each of following sources to tell you the truth about the #covid19?

Scientists/doctors top (great)
However: "person like yourself" beats "my country's leader" and, bottom, "journalists".

OMFG

Ten-market average, 1k respondents in eachhttps://t.co/DNiQoE8ukZ pic.twitter.com/bfrcQuqddW

— Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (@rasmus_kleis) March 17, 2020

OMFG, indeed.

It’s also a reminder of why it’s important that local media has taken the brunt of the news business’ financial distress over the past decade, not national media. Someone is much more likely to consider a local reporter — someone who hoards toilet paper from the same Target as they do — a “person like yourself” than, say, Wolf Blitzer.

On the misinformation front, 85 percent want to hear more from scientists and less from politicians, 74 percent worry about the spread of fake news about the virus, and 45 percent have trouble finding reliable and trustworthy information about the virus and its effects.

You can read the full findings here.

By Hanaa Tameez, for NiemanLab

Categories: World News

Combating ‘fake news’ in the time of COVID-19 in Myanmar

Wed, 03/25/2020 - 02:47
Travelers at Yangon International Airport walk past a Ministry of Health and Sports advisory billboard about COVID-19 on March 18, 2020 / Photo and caption by Myo Min Soe / The Irrawaddy

Source: Global Voices

This edited article by Nan Lwin is from The Irrawaddy, an independent news website in Myanmar, and 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.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in China’s Hubei province, social media has spawned countless fake news stories and hoaxes in Myanmar, including promises of false cures that have caused panic among the public.

As a countermeasure, Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) formed a team in early January to give the public timely information about the global coronavirus pandemic, including the latest data and updates on the exact number of suspected cases and laboratory results, in collaboration with state and regional governments. The MOHS team also launched a website with videos about the virus as part of their effort to raise public awareness on how to stay safe—for both medical staff and the public—and also provide do’s and don’ts from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Irrawaddy spoke to MOHS Assistant Director Dr. Htoo Myint Swe, who is responsible for the public awareness information team, about the virus and how the ministry is providing information to the public and fighting fake news on social media and online platforms.

Nan Lwin: We have seen countless fake news stories, misinformation and disinformation on Facebook, especially about COVID-19. How does the MOHS work to fight fake news on online platforms?

Dr. Htoo Myint Swe: The most important thing is that when you hear a rumor, you must check the MOHS official website and Facebook page. When it comes to fighting fake news, our team has a responsibility to give the public real information. We have to act as a watchdog for all information related to COVID-19 on social media among Myanmar users.

Our team includes officials from the CDC [Myanmar National Center of Disease Control], public health and electronic health system officials, and other officers who are working to prevent and fight COVID-19. We also coordinate with other related departments to distinguish between real news and fake news.

We have to respond immediately, as soon as fake news has spread. Recently, everyone began to panic after a rumor spread on Facebook that one patient [in Myanmar] died of COVID-19. We had to respond immediately—it was totally fake news.

Many people have been sharing misinformation: that people need to drink hot water to prevent COVID-19 and also that eating ice cream could cause the disease. People think that those instructions came from UNICEF. So we had to discuss with officials from UNICEF in Myanmar and explain to the public that this is not right.

Now, we are also collaborating with the Ministry of Transport and Communications to track down people who are spreading fake news. We also share information with each other. Recently, our ministry also issued a warning that we will take action against people who spread fake news on social media.

NL: What kind of fake news stories have people been taking seriously?

HMS: We watch carefully and take it seriously, especially fake information that has caused serious panic. Recently, panic buying has started across Yangon after a fake voice recording circulated on Facebook. They used both a woman’s and a man’s voices, pretending to be government officials saying that there are many people infected with COVID-19 in Yangon. Moreover, we found out that many pages on social media are provoking panic buying and fear mongering among the public.

Recently, social media users are helping our work to fight fake news and our public awareness campaign. Thousands of social media users made a group and a network to serve as watchdogs for fake news on social media. They also report it to Facebook as soon as they see the fake news, misinformation or disinformation. We are also connected with that network to make our work more effective.

NL: How does Facebook’s Myanmar team collaborate with MOHS?

HMS: Facebook already has a function to report for controversial issues. When we find out about fake news, we report it to [Facebook] to check it carefully and to take it down. But they don’t take down every post that we report. They only take down posts when they don’t follow their community standards.

NL: Why is it important to fight fake news in the time of coronavirus?

HMS: It is very crucial to fight fake news in the time of coronavirus. A piece of fake news, a photo or a status could easily provoke the public to panic. We are all together during this critical time. We need to unify to fight together. Fake news could lead to instability in the country. The result will be bad for every citizen in this country.

I would like to advise all social media users to think carefully before they share something on Facebook. Recently, we found out that some websites have been sharing disinformation about the virus, like how many have died in Myanmar due to COVID-19. Many people are sharing it without knowing it is a clickbait website.

However, we are facing challenges in trying to take down those kinds of websites. Also, some users are sharing posts that mix factual and fake information. These posts come with the UNICEF logo to get more attention, so we have to check with UNICEF about which information is right or wrong. Then we still have to inform people about the truth.

I would like to advise people to believe the statements from the MOHS official website and Facebook. The WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a global pandemic. Even though we have no cases so far, we need to prepare to fight the disease together.

NL: Currently, Myanmar has tested nearly 150 people for possible virus infection. But Myanmar has not yet seen a single confirmed case of the coronavirus so far. Some people wonder if the virus is going undetected or the government is covering it up. What would you want to say to them, as an official from MOHS?

HMS: No, we don’t…. We are not covering up anything. This is absolutely not true. COVID-19 is not the kind of disease we could cover up. Nowadays, everyone has a phone and internet access. We could not hide anything. Now, everybody knows the latest formation as soon as we find out about a suspected patient in the country, including the [test] results. I would like to tell the public not to worry—we won’t be covering anything up. We will give timely and correct information to the public on everything related to COVID-19.

Written by The Irrawaddy

Categories: World News

The great phony: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fake quarantine letter

Wed, 03/25/2020 - 02:33

By Polygraph

All across the Internet
“Read the classics. This is a quarantine letter by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was isolated in south of France in 1920 due to the Spanish influenza.”
Source: Twitter, March 20, 2020
False
The letter is fake, translated from a satirical piece

A Russian translation of the “Quarantine letter” purportedly written by renowned American author F. Scott Fitzgerald during the Spanish flu epidemic is making the rounds on social media, blogs, chats and media websites.

A fake F. Scott Fitzgerald quarantine latter translated into Russian language

The letter describes life under quarantine during the Spanish flu pandemic in the early 20th century. A portion that is being shared most enthusiastically and has made it into various memes:

“The officials have alerted us to ensure we have a month’s worth of necessities. Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, gin, and lord, if we need it, brandy. Please pray for us.”

FRANCIS SCOTT FITZGERALD

Fitzgerald, of course, is the author of “The Great Gatsby,” published in 1925 during the height of the U.S. prohibition era (1920-33). The novel’s characters drank heavily. Fitzgerald struggled with alcoholism throughout his adult life.

The letter is a fake.

The original version was written by the American Nick Fariella for the humor website McSweeneys.com and published on March 13. A note atop the piece reads: “This is a work of parody and is not an actual letter written by Fitzgerald.”

But don’t let a flat-out warning get in the way of the internet.

Yandex.ru, the Russian equivalent of Google, yields more than 2 million current results when searched for the Fitzgerald quarantine letter. A few are debunking stories, but most are postings that take Fariella’s satire as really having been written by Fitzgerald.

A screenshot of a Yandex.ru search for “F. Scott Fitzgerald quarantine letter”

On social media, “the letter” was for the most part shared as a simple screenshot of the text in Russian. A @Twoogel search returned hundreds of tweets with the shot.

User @stalingulag wrote on March 21: “Sure, people used to be able to sit through a quarantine. They stocked the proper supplies. And now? Canned meat, pasta, toilet paper. Such a degeneration!”

The tweet received more than 3,400 likes and 600-plus retweets as of March 22. Hundreds replied with images of their own impressive stockpiles of alcohol.

Вот умели раньше люди на карантине сидеть. Правильные запасы делали. А сейчас что? Тушёнка, макароны, туалетная бумага. Какая деградация! pic.twitter.com/XjTRdo7X0J

— Сталингулаг (@StalinGulag) March 21, 2020

Reuters’ fact-checker found the fake letter just as popular in the U.S.

“The text has been shared at least 2,800 times on Facebook and at least 1,355 times on Twitter as of March 19, 2020,” Reuters reported.

The Spanish flu of 1918-19 was the most severe pandemic in recent history, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC). It infected a third of human population globally and killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

Figure of the week: 76 million

Wed, 03/25/2020 - 02:20

By EU vs Disinfo

Advertisements for some of the best-known global brands are funding some of the most notorious disinformation sites in Europe – to the tune of US$76 million per year.

New research by the Global Disinformation Index has produced the findings, estimating that more than $76 million in ad revenues is inadvertently being spent annually on sites that spread disinformation by major corporations including Amazon Prime, Burger King, Mercedes Benz, Samsung, Spotify, and Volvo. Crucially, the placement of these ads is enabled by a number of equally prominent tech companies, with Google (Ad Services and DoubleClick) and Criteo leading the pack. These companies provide ads for each site based on each user’s online data footprint and geolocation.

The study found that Google provides ad services to 57% of the disinformation sites used in the sample, paying them 62% of the estimated total revenues – a whopping US$48 million annually. GDI highlights that Google’s market dominance with this problem in Europe “reflects its global role in serving ads to disinformation sites globally.” Second to Google, French ad tech company Criteo also serves up a significant portion of ads to European disinformation sites, providing 13% of them with ads that result in payments totalling US$13 million annually (17% of overall revenues).

In addition, other ad tech companies covered in the study include Amazon, Moneytizer, OpenX, Pubmatic, Revcontent, Rubicon Project, Taboola, Teads, The Trade Desk, Twitter, and Xandr. The share of each ad tech company’s advertising revenue and proportion of domains served is shown in the graph below. Five companies account for 97% of ad revenues paid to disinformation-spreading sites: Google, Criteo, OpenX, Taboola and Xandr. While precise estimates of online ad revenue are hard to make due to market opacity, GDI’s method focused on their lower bound, making these estimates conservative by comparison to other studies.

Source: Global Disinformation Index

As part of the research, GDI compiled a map of these brand name ads across various known disinformation sites in Europe. The list of domains used in the study – which totalled almost 1,400 – was collected from several independent fact-checking sources as well as scraped from public lists that track disinformation in Europe, including the EUvsDisinfo database.

The sample encompassed foreign news sites that are known for spreading disinformation in Europe – such as the language and country variations of Russia Today, Sputnik News, and Epoch Times, among others – as well as domains in several European countries. The research specifically profiled eight national case studies: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, and Spain.

Based on its findings, GDI concludes that this widespread and indiscriminate placement of ads on disinformation sites is a violation of the EU’s Code of Practice on Disinformation, of which one goal is “to disrupt advertising and monetization incentives” for disinformation. GDI notes that Google as well as the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) are signatories of the Code of Practice and have voluntarily committed themselves to its implementation. While IAB counts among its members several of the ad tech companies identified as serving ads on the disinformation sites, the WFA represents a wide range of advertisers and brands, including many found in the present study.

Accordingly, the implication of this research is that ad tech companies as well as brands themselves are either unaware of or unwilling to reduce advertising placed on sites whose activities harm public debates in open societies. More must be done both by the advertising industry and brands themselves to prevent the monetisation of disinformation and related harmful content that threatens to undermine European democratic processes, civic cohesion, and public health.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News