Coronavirus: False messages on social media cause 'unnecessary' panic

Coronavirus: False messages on social media cause 'unnecessary' panic
A lot of fake news and false messages about ways to fight or prevent the coronavirus are circulating on social media. Credit: Pixabay

A lot of false messages about ways to fight or prevent the new coronavirus (Covid-19) are circulating on social media, the FPS Public Health said.

Several messages from quoting "Taiwanese experts" who call on people to keep their throat "moist," drink warm water, or take a breath test to check if they are infected with the coronavirus are currently circulating on Whatsapp as well as on other social media like Facebook and Twitter.

A fake audio message warning that "someone at Home Affairs" has said that Belgium will "go into complete lockdown" within two weeks is also being spread on Whatsapp. Warnings to quickly buy enough food "to be able to manage for a few months" are also popping up, but the FPS Public Health has repeatedly said that there is "no need to start hoarding."

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"We have already received a handful of reports about such false information," said Jan Eyckmans, spokesperson of the FPS Public Health to Het Laatste Nieuws. "One of which we were able to trace back to Suriname," he said, adding that the FPS is working with Twitter, Facebook and Google to promote the correct messages with the official information.

The same fake message is being spread on both Facebook and Twitter. Credit: Screengrab Facebook and Twitter

"Of course, we cannot control what's going on in closed groups like on Whatsapp," said Joris Moonens, spokesperson for the Agency for Care and Health, to VRT. "Use your common sense and consult the official information of the government or the spokespersons of government agencies such as Marc Van Ranst and Steven Van Gucht," Moonens said, adding that these messages only cause "unnecessary panic."

The official government information about the coronavirus can be found on the website, which was launched with the express purpose to find all official info in the same place. The website also shows numerous prevention tips and measures.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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