A BRIEF REVIEW OF FAKE NEWS AND MEDIA DISCRIMINATION DURING COVID-19 CRISIS

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Bulgaria

One of the main problems and challenges in the fight against fake news was the lack or minimal reliable information on the subject by the Bulgarian government. Incomplete or even contradictory information was often given to the public (especially in the days before the Government announced emergency measures). This was one of the reasons for the lack of trust in reliable sources of information such as national radio programs and television networks.

In Bulgaria, although the Government kept citizens informed of the state of the pandemic on a daily basis, many people trusted „fake news“, which increased the risk of panic and wrong decisions made by them. Hundreds of posts spreading misinformation about Covid-19 are being left online in social medias like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter including false cures, anti-vaccination propaganda and conspiracy theories about 5G. Social distancing in a pandemic was affecting internet traffic around the world.

The most common and worrying effect of the presence of fake news in Bulgaria was declining trust in the media. Fake news contributes to a growing suspicion of traditional media, leading to a vicious cycle where it becomes possible to use the term in order to discredit unfavourable news reports.

Montenegro

DFC (Digital Forensic Center) conducted a descriptive online indicative survey, with the aim of assessment use of the media and informing Montenegrin citizens about the COVID19 epidemic19. Respondents, 80.5 of them percent follow the news about the corona virus in Montenegro almost every day, 11.1 of them do that sometimes while 7.6 percent rarely or almost never. Respondents, 55.6 percent of them mostly or completely – trusts the Montenegrin media,  21.7 percent trusts them partially, while 22.7 percent do not or mostly no trust.

Citizens are most often informed about the pandemic on internet portals and through television, while that is the least common make through the press and radio. When it comes to trust in television, citizens have the most trust in TV Vijesti (45.5 percent) and TVCG (42.2 percent), followed by Nova M and TV Prva. Portal Vijesti has the greatest trust of citizens when it comes to informing about the corona virus on the Internet portals. The portals RTCG, CDM, Antena M, Analitika, Pobjeda, FOS and Dan follow. Almost 78 percent of respondents noticed fake news and misinformation about the corona virus, and most often such news found on social networks and portals.

Turkey

Examples:

1- The Claim that Dr. Ercüment Ovalı figured treatment out the medicine /

vaccine of the coronavirus is not true

Source: https://www.hurriyet.com.tr

2- The claim that the doctor in the video says people die from oxygen deprivation

of the coronavirus patients because of 5G

Source: social media

3- The Claim that All Outbreaks are Chinese

Source: social media

Italy

During the last period, some Facebook pages contributed actively to spreading fake news, such as: miraculous treatments to eliminate coronavirus, conspiracies on a planetary scale behind its phantom creation, conspiracy theories on the spread of Covid 19 through 5G telecommunications networks.

According to NewGuard's analysis, the two sites that have contributed significantly to the spread of disinformation on Covid-19 by sharing articles, are: ViralMagazine.it and FanMagazine.it. Both of these sites are not respecting the fundamental criteria of credibility and transparency. On the other hand, there are 30 posts on these pages, claiming that the Italian government would have prevented tests on migrants.

Various articles claimed also that coronavirus was created by China, hidden in a Wuhan laboratory with the complicity of the World Health Organization, and then spread all over the world.

The latest hoax is circulating on WhatsApp and other chats and says that immigrants would be immune to

infection thanks to the tuberculosis vaccine. Obviously, the scientific evidence denies this hypothesis.

Below a list of the most popular fake news in Italy:

  • Non-EU citizens are immune to the epidemic thanks to the Tuberculosis vaccine
  • There is a correlation between the covid-19 and the 5G network
  • Coronavirus leads to sterility, especially for men
  • Children are immune to the coronavirus
  • The coronavirus is cured with water and bicarbonate
  • The essential oils of aromatic plants such as basil, rosemary, oregano protect against the new Coronavirus
  • Cutting your beard avoids contagion
  • Eating garlic can help prevent new coronavirus infection
  • Drinking a lot of water washes the virus from the airways and pushes it into the stomach where it is destroyed by the acid
  • The new coronavirus can be transmitted through mosquito bites

Albania

Since the moment of presence of Covid-19 in Albania, many fake news invaded the media. Some of them were speculating about the real number of infected people in Albania, or that the virus was intentionally created to reduce the world population. Let’s have a look at this specific news, which indicates that the Corona-Virus is created as a biological weapon.

“The Corona-Virus is a biological weapon. The virus is potentially lethal and an offensive biological warfare weapon or dual-use bio-war-fare weapons agent genetically modified with gain of function properties, which is why the Chinese government originally tried to cover it up and is now taking drastic measures to contain it”. This is transmitted by A2 channel in Albania.

Some other news were suggesting the best remedies based on folk medicine to cure or to prevent getting infected by Corona-Virus.

  • “Drink tea made by lemon and laurel”
  • “Use a lot of garlic in your food”
  • “Eat a lot of food that contain Vitamin C”
  • “Eat as much as you can, lemon and oranges”
  • “Use alcohol to disinfect your hands and use rakia to disinfect your inner organs” (Rakia

is a traditional Albanian alcoholic drink) -This news particularly made people, mostly men, to consume a lot of alcohol during the quarantine.

Links of fake news:

Serbia

In the domestic media, in the period from March 12 to April 12, a total of 43 false and manipulative information regarding the corona virus pandemic was recorded. This news were transmitted a total of 241 times through various digital and print media and television and shared more than 220 thousand times on Facebook alone. This was reported by the FakeNews portal.

Conspiracy theories took up 13 percent of the fake content of domestic production „It could be heard that the virus was artificially made, that the vaccine has existed for a long time, but also that the ultimate goal is the collapse of Christianity, chipping the population, collapsing financial structure globally, spreading 5G networks, the settlement of migrants, that everything was designed by ´people who rule from the shadows and manage the new world order´, and that everything was designed so that NATO would dust Serbia with sarin“, the study states.

Among the mainstream media, the most created and transmitted false narratives were noticed in „Informer“, „Serbia Today“ and „Espresso“. After the news was proven to be untrue, the media removed it in only 4.2 percent of cases. So, more than 95% of fake news about the pandemic is still publicly available in the domestic media.

Some of the sites which are following development of fake news and are working on constant exposure of fake news and problematic media content are listed below:

https://fakenews.rs/
https://www.bbc.com/serbian/lat/svet-52444412
https://www.cenzolovka.rs/tag/koronavirus/
https://www.raskrikavanje.rs/index.php

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have played critical roles in sharing news and information, but also in disseminating rumors and misinformation. Fake news contained useless, incorrect or even harmful information and advice, which could hamper the public health response and add to social disorder and division. Some fake news also contained a mixture of correct and false information, which made it difficult to spot what is true and accurate.

Recent articles published on the website dispel widespread myths, such as:

  • Conspiracy theories
  • Misreporting of common symptoms and recovery
  • Prevention and treatment misinformation

Today more than ever, as the whole world is in the face of health crisis, residents of Bosnia and Herzegovina need quality and responsible news reporting, not only to identify disinformation, but also to provide sound public health advice and build community solidarity.