We’re not going to rehash the minute details, as many of you have probably heard of stories about Bill Gates and the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the yarn goes, the Microsoft founder and American billionaire had a role in making the virus, which was supposedly part of a plan by global elites to depopulate the world.
And then with the vaccines, conspiracy theorists claimed that Gates hatched a scheme to put microchips in the shots.
All of these sound crazy to many. But as Indian newspaper Business Today recalled, tales about Gates got mentioned 1.2 million times on TV and social media between February and April 2020 alone.
The paper was citing an analysis made by the New York Times and Zignal Labs, a media analytics company.
The publication went on to speculate how Gates became the “voodoo doll of COVID conspiracies”.
“The genesis of these distorted tidings dates back to 2015 when an unassuming-looking Gates issued a dire warning from the stage of TED conference in Vancouver saying that ‘if anything kills over 10 million people over the next few decades, it is likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than war’,” the paper noted.
This goes to show that no matter how kooky a story gets, in the digital age, it has the potential to spread.
In February 2021, researchers with Statistics Canada released their findings about how Canadians found information online regarding the pandemic, and what they did with it.
Karine Garneau and Clémence Zossou titled their work “Misinformation During the COVID-19 Pandemic”, which gives a hint about what they learned.
“The COVID-19 pandemic was accompanied by an infodemic—an overabundance of information, some which is true and some which is not, which made it very difficult for people to find facts and reliable sources,” the authors wrote.
According to them, nine in ten Canadians (90 percent) used online sources to find information about COVID-19.
The three main sources were: online newspapers or news sites (63 percent), social media posts from news organizations or magazines (35 percent), and social media posts from other users or influencers (30 percent).
Moreover, during the first few months of the pandemic, 96 percent of Canadians who used the Internet “saw COVID-19 information that they suspected was misleading, false or inaccurate”.
Among these, one-quarter (25 percent) saw the suspected information many times a day, 14 percent saw it once a day, and 29 percent saw it at least once a week.
In addition, nearly two in five Canadians (40 percent) reported “believing that the information they saw related to COVID-19 was true, then later realized that it was not”.
Also, only one in five Canadians always checked the accuracy of online COVID-19 information.
The authors noted that based on the survey used in the study, “many Canadians were not in a regular habit of checking the accuracy of information they found online”.
Specifically, only 21 percent reported they always check accuracy, and 37 percent said that they often check.
However, roughly 36 percent of Canadians reported that they only sometimes (24 percent) or rarely (12 percent) checked the accuracy of COVID-19 information they found online.
According to the Statistics Canada researchers, this tendency to not check the accuracy of information “facilitates the sharing of potentially misleading, false or inaccurate information”.
More alarming, half of Canadians shared COVID-19 information they found online “without knowing whether it was accurate”.
As the study noted, infodemics pose dangers to public health because of their potential to spread fake news.
“Misinformation in the context of COVID-19 can endanger the population’s health, especially if the news that spreads is about false prevention measures or treatments, or if it undermines the population’s trust in health services and public or political institutions,” the paper noted.
Canadian Filipino Net is proud to do its part to combat misinformation by presenting stories and commentaries from reliable and credible sources.
More specifically, starting in February 2020, this online publication began publishing a regular series on COVID-19 by Dr. Rey Pagtakhan.
Dr. Pagtakhan is a retired lung specialist and professor from the faculty of medicine at the University of Manitoba. He was trained in the University of the Philippines, Washington University, University of Manitoba, and University of Arizona. He was also a former cabinet minister with the federal Canadian government.
Depending on where you live, you our dear readers can avail yourself of official pronouncements from your respective provincial medical health officers.
In Toronto, the city’s chief medical officer is someone of Canadian Filipino descent, Dr. Eileen de Villa.
Beware of fake news. It could be just as harmful as the virus.
For the Canadian Filipino Net Editorial Board