If it was already true that a lie can fly halfway around the world before the truth can put on its shoes, imagine the accelerating effects of a pandemic that sends millions inside and online, hostile foreign powers keen to sow disruption, and tech platforms with a spotty record on moderating speech. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, bogus cures and a litany of false claims have flooded the Internet, making clear that the fight against the novel coronavirus also entails a fight against misinformation.
Coronavirus misinformation is taking many forms, which are dangerous in different ways. Most alarming is advice that would lead to direct harm if followed, such as directions to drink bleach or expose yourself to very hot temperatures to kill the virus. Also concerning is material that undermines official public health guidance, such as a recent viral video that suggested wearing a mask “activates your own virus.” (Facebook and YouTube have removed the clip.)