Tue, Feb 11, 2020 - Page 14 News List

Coronavirus misinformation spreads over social media
無知、恐懼、歧視:冠狀病毒假消息滿天飛

Information on the 2019 novel coronavirus from the Alhambra Unified School District’s Parent Portal is displayed on a cellphone on Feb. 4 in Alhambra, California, US.
手機顯示阿罕布拉統一學區在家長入口網站所發布的冠狀病毒相關訊息。二月四日攝於美國加州阿罕布拉。

Photo: AFP
照片:法新社

The novel coronavirus roiling financial markets and prompting travel bans is taking on a life of its own on the Internet, once again putting US-based social media companies on the defensive about their efforts to curb the spread of false or dangerous information.

Researchers and journalists have documented a growing number of cases of misinformation about the virus, ranging from racist explanations for the disease’s origin to false claims about miracle cures. Conspiracy theorists, trolls and cynics hoping to use the panic to boost traffic to their own accounts have all contributed to the cloud of bad information.

“It’s the perfect intersection of fear, racism and distrust of the government and Big Pharma,” said Maarten Schenk, co-founder of the fact-checking site Lead Stories. “People don’t trust the official narrative.”

The novel coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, so far has killed at least 900 people and infected over 40,000, with cases in more than 20 countries.

One set of tweets and Facebook posts from US conspiracy theory accounts said drinking bleach could protect against the virus or even cure it.

“Rumors can travel more quickly and more widely than they could” in an era before social media, said Thomas Rid, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University, who has a forthcoming book on the history of disinformation. “That of course lends itself to conspiracies spreading more quickly. They spread more widely and they are more persistent in the sense that you can’t undo them.”

Some of the Internet traffic and misinformation has been outright racist against Chinese people and Asians in general. Posts attributing the coronavirus to Chinese culinary practices have blown up, and a review of a new Chinese restaurant in Toronto was swarmed by racist trolls. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and some of that can be quite dangerous,” Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases unit, said at a press conference in Geneva on Jan. 29.

TODAY’S WORDS
今日單字

1. novel coronavirus phr.

新型冠狀病毒 (xin1 xing2 guan4 zhuang4 bing4 du2)

2. misinformation n.

假消息;錯誤資訊 (jia3 xiao1 xi2; cuo4 wu4 zi1 xun4)

3. conspiracy theorist phr.

陰謀論者 (yin1 mou2 lun4 zhe3)

4. panic n.

恐慌 (kong3 huang1)

5. racism n.

種族歧視 (zhong3 zu2 qi2 shi4)

6. rumor n.

謠言 (yao2 yan2)

7. uncertainty n.

不確定性 (bu2 que4 ding4 xing4)

8. polarization n.

兩極分化 (liang3 ji2 fen1 hua4)


Viruses have always sparked fear and misinformation, striking panic as rumors spread and people desperate for information latch onto whatever snippets they can find — whether they’re true or not. But the advent of social media has supercharged this process, leading to waves of misinformation over elections, mass shootings, plane crashes and natural disasters.

The outbreak is just the latest test of social networks’ ability to handle the spread of false and dangerous information.

“Early days in an outbreak, there’s so much uncertainty. People don’t like uncertainty. They want answers,” said Timothy Caulfield, a health law professor at the University of Alberta. “Social media is a polarization machine where the loudest voices win,” he said.

(Bloomberg)

擾亂金融市場、讓多國發布旅行禁令的新型冠狀病毒,現在也佔據了網路各角落,再度讓總部位於美國的社群媒體公司疲於辨解他們對防堵不實或危險資訊的傳播所做的努力。

研究人員和記者發現,關於該病毒的錯誤訊息越來越多,從對該病起源的種族歧視的解釋,到奇蹟式療癒的不實說法都有。陰謀論者、惡搞的人及酸民利用恐慌來增加他們自己網路帳號的流量,這一切都助長了這些有害的資訊。

事實查核網站「Lead Stories」的共同創辦人馬丁‧申克表示:「這是恐懼、種族歧視、對政府之不信任,以及電玩遊戲『Big Pharma』(大藥廠)的完美結合」。「人們不信任官方的說法。」

自中國武漢市發源的新型冠狀病毒,目前已造成九百多人死亡、逾四萬人感染,有二十多國出現確診病例。

美國一些持陰謀論的帳號在推特和臉書發出訊息稱,喝漂白水可預防甚至治癒這種病毒。

約翰霍普金斯大學戰略研究教授托馬斯‧里德表示,在這有社群媒體的年代,「謠言可以比過去傳播得更快、更廣」。他有一本探討假消息歷史的書即將出版。「這當然也讓陰謀活動傳播得更快。它們散佈得更廣,並因訊息無法刪除,所以更是揮之不去。」

有些網路點閱量和假消息完全是針對中國人和所有亞洲人的種族歧視。將冠狀病毒歸咎於中國烹飪方式的貼文快速傳開,多倫多一家新開張中餐館在網路上的評價,被種族歧視的惡搞酸民灌爆。「有很多錯誤訊息,其中有的可能非常危險」,世界衛生組織新興疾病部門主管瑪利亞‧范科霍芙一月二十九日在日內瓦的記者會上表示。

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