The recent reports on the local transmission of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have heightened the senses of Filipinos who are now taking precautions against acquiring the dreaded virus.
Preparations are being done by the government and local officials but there is one aspect to this that needs more attention: ONLINE LITERACY AND COMPREHENSION.
After the announcement that the Philippines was already on a Public Health Emergency, graphics or memes supposedly by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) went viral.
The memes were instructions on how to avoid getting COVID-19 and providing prevention tips. They looked legitimate and had a stamp of UNICEF. Misinformation in a time of an epidemic is criminal and there is no other way to describe but “idiots” those who produce these fake warnings, without regard to the anxiety of the Filipino public.
The graphics explained that novel coronavirus is killed if people gargle with warm saltwater. Another clue that should have been a dead giveaway was exposure to the sun would have caused the virus to be “killed.” My favorite line was that the virus can be passed on to a metal surface and can be extinguished from the body.
These fake advisories should have instantly raised eyebrows, but they didn’t, and sadly the infographics were already polluting social media platforms. There should be an education campaign on online literacy and how we can avoid falling prey to these fake memes.
Doubt everything you read or watch or see. This includes this column and it is your responsibility to check for facts and source information from reliable places. A UNICEF logo DOES NOT MEAN that these came from UNICEF. Check their website, their official social media accounts, and all other means to validate the information you are receiving. This is the classic case of a “budol-budol” scam where relatives or household members become willing victims and dole out jewelry or money after hearing about an “accident.”
Taking the necessary steps to prevent COVID-19 infections is also vital and responding to it with a measured approach is crucial. Using verified information and being responsible are key to making decisions that will create an impact on the public.
This is why Americans and European tech companies are also canceling conventions to prevent an outbreak of the disease. The most notable events are the Mobile World Congress in Spain, the Facebook Global Marketing Summit in San Francisco, California, Microsoft’s MVP Summit, the Nvidia GPU Technology Conference, Google Cloud’s Next 2020 conference, IBM Think 2020 developer conference, and various e-sports tournaments.
These actions were made because of verified information. Not only should we be careful if we travel and do our daily workload, but also when we are online so we can avoid contributing to misinformation which is so widespread already.