The Government's Enlisted Influencers to Try and Tackle Coronavirus Misinformation

By Tom Pritchard on at

Misinformation spreads on the internet faster than the coronavirus can spread through a population. Measures have already been put in place to try and stop all this, but misinformation comes from all over, even the mouth of the Oompa Loompa in Chief Donald Trump. So the government's latest line of defence has been revealed: the influencers.

The Department for International Development (DFID) has set aside £500,000 for the Humanitarian-to-Humanitarian (H2H) Network - a organisation that already has experience tackling misinformation during epidemics, including the 2015 ebola outbreak. Part of H2H's work, in addition to the traditional fact-fighting work, will involve using influencers to help spread accurate health information.

This specific endeavour is designed to reach people in south east Asia and Africa, with the influencers being used to reach the younger audiences that may be more susceptible to fake information. Naturally Asia has already been hot hard by coronavirus, and poorer areas are going to have more issues containing and treating the disease than more affluent regions.

But misinformation is already rampant round there too. People are being peddled harmful 'miracle cures' like drinking leach, eating garlic, gargling saltwater, and more, while other regions have ben receiving WhatsApp messages claiming to be from health officials offering bullshit ways of avoiding infection - like drinking warm water every few minutes. And then you have the rumours prompting violence and conspiracies, which have been happening everywhere - even here.

So yeah, if the influencers can help spread accurate information to people, so right ahead.

Naturally being the DFID, this was never going to be tackling misinformation here in the UK. That's the role of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, which has already announced its own counter-disinformation unit. And Public Health England is updating its advice regularly, according to the government. []