The Zimbabwean Perspective

A look at our lives and the tech we use in them

Editorial Health

Misinformation is one of the biggest problems COVID-19 has brought this world.

We all need to stay calm and consider the facts….

Image Credit: BBC
The COVID-19 Coronavirus has been causing problems for nearly everyone around the world now and in all kinds of industries and tech has been no exception. We’ve been covering the virus’ effect on tech from a manufacturing to an innovation and sales perspective but alarmingly enough it seems one of the biggest problems COVID-19 is bring for the tech industry and even through technology itself is a relative low-tech one: misinformation.
Rumors running rampant on social media are causing widespread harm and property damage
Rumors and false stories about COVID-19 had been spreading online for months now but in the past month, with most of the world taking notice of the virus, they’ve all escalated to dangerous proportions. Social media platforms, blogs and apparently even sites on The Dark Web are all spreading differing theories on the Coronavirus that all instill fear in whoever’s reading them. Conspiracy theories based on the virus’ origin, it’s actual death toll, or even it’s supposed purpose have ranged from biological warfare to a divine attack by God or an evil one meant to bring forth Armageddon. It all sounds crazy here but considering there’s Facebook groups with millions of users based on these topics there’s obviously a lot of people who believe what’s being said. In fact, with some Coronavirus rumors blaming 5G as the source of the virus, at least 3 5G towers where apparently attacked and set aflame by civilians in the UK these past few weeks. It’s all created a special kind of mass hysteria, one more novel to Zimbabwe, where people aren’t panicking out in the streets but instead are losing their minds in the comfort of their homes, and that effect can be even more devastating in the long run.
While some companies are offering free subscription services, Netflix isn’t one of them
The spread of misinformation doesn’t just end at fear-inducing click-bait unfortunately, as online scammers and malware agents have decided to get in on the fun as well. With tech companies, internet providers and so on in the US and Europe offering discounts, special deals or even free giveaways of various products and services, malware agents have decided to cash in on that and spread spyware, spamming software or just straight up viruses through copying the same or similar offers and leading people to false websites that install the harmful software on users’ devices. A common example is a supposed World Health Organization (WHO) sponsored internet package of 1GB, which in case you hadn’t picked up on it already, was total bogus and attempted to install spyware on a user’s phone. Other similar traps of this kind include a free Netflix bundle text making rounds as well, and the worst-case scenario of actual COVID-19 vaccine offers for users to sign up for once the vaccine supposedly becomes available. It’s all a bit much, and is definitely confusing when some companies are actually offering free services or trials of paid products because of COVID-19 and social distancing, but hence it becomes a case of everyone needing to definitely double check any and all sources promising some version of a discount or free service, especially when said offer is sent through instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp. And if you can’t go online to fact-check, well not clicking the link for starters is a good idea. The world is currently in a state where everyone is a little confused and scared, not rushing for every online goodie that seems to come up is a good way to keep yourself (and your devices) safe from the less admirable parts of the internet.
And in fact, not jumping into conclusions or rushing into anything is the type of advice we should heed for almost every situation at the current moment. As we already said, panic is rampant online at the moment, and it’s affecting most of us in one way or another because we’re letting it. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be paying attention to the coronavirus or act like it doesn’t exist, rather it means the opposite. We should pay the right amount of attention and look at more legitimate sources for our information. We already did an article on sites by WHO, Google and Microsoft that help with tracking accurate COVID-19 news and health information, and we would advise even more research from those sources and other reliable online health journals and publications, instead of one or two clickbait articles or the movie Contagion (that’s right, we know you people). The wrong sources of info will only lead to more fear and panic, and I think we can all agree that that is the last thing any of us need. And it’s a shame that technology has served to help spread such fear, but it can help stop it as well. All we need to do is remember that technology is a tool, not necessarily a benevolent or malevolent force on its own, and we decide how we use it and what we use it for. Now could a faulty technology cause harm like 5G is supposedly said to? Sure, but 5G waves have already been cleared by health officials and independent audits as not harmful to the human body at all, so they definitely aren’t the world-ending device that conspiracies set them out to be. It’s all a case of controlling your fear in the end. We’re all scared, but we can’t rule out fact and suddenly embrace every rumor we hear in a bid to understand COVID-19 a bit more than health officials already do. That won’t bring us any closer to solving this pandemic, and in fact we would likely only run rampant having fed ourselves content that just scares us even more. So let’s all get a little better informed, stay calm, and do our best to stay safe. No one can seemingly promise this will be over soon, and that sucks, but we should at least promise ourselves not to let this make us lose our minds, as those are the only things we can truly control in such a situation.

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