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As coronavirus spreads, so too does misinformation

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Posted at 5:20 PM, Feb 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-28 17:20:27-05

(LEX 18) — As fears of a Coronavirus becoming a pandemic increase, the World Health Organization is warning of another dangerous trend: an “infodemic,” false information flooding people’s social media feeds at a breakneck speed.

“I do see people taking, sort of, humorous approaches that can incite fear,” said Kakie Urch, an associate professor at University of Kentucky’s School of Journalism and Media.

Urch specializes in social media and warns of the dangers misinformation about diseases can pose to the public.

“I see people taking information out of context and repurposing that, so that acts nearly the same as a disinformation campaign,” Urch said.

Public health officials have been busy studying the virus, as well as swatting down rumors surrounding the disease.

Urch stresses the importance of media literacy, urging people to refrain from sharing stories on Facebook from suspicious websites.

“Know who your significant sources are of true information and filter for those,” Urch advised.

Social media platforms, like Facebook, have already taken steps to try to curb the spread of misinformation about the disease.

Facebook recently announced efforts to “limit misinformation and harmful content.”

“We will also start to remove content with false claims and conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations...focusing on claims that are designed to discourage treatment or taking appropriate precautions,” a release issued by Facebook last month read.