7 April 2020, All4Women, News24
William Bird, director of Media Monitoring Africa, told News24 there had been a significant spike in fake news and conspiracy theories since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
“This kind of thing is increasing. That specific complaint [about the contaminated swabs] was submitted to us several times. There are also several illegitimate WhatsApp voice notes being distributed. People are sending them around in the hope that they sound a whole lot more compelling [than they are] or that they connect with people – it’s a similar thing with videos.
“I mean, I don’t know what that guy [in the swab video] was thinking he was going to achieve. The levels of disinformation that we have seen are really worrying.”
Difficult to monitor
Bird said fake messages were in the past predominantly shared on open platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, which made it easier to control, but that there has been a predominant shift to WhatsApp, where it is much harder to track or monitor.
“Some people make statements that are just fundamentally misinformed because they haven’t applied their brains or logic, so there is some level of ignorance. But some of them are deliberately seeking to deceive people and instil fear or get people to distrust things.”