July 29, 2021

Doctors from various countries ask social networks to combat disinformation



A hundred doctors and nurses from various countries have signed a letter demanding that those responsible for the main social networks and digital platforms combat viral disinformation about COVID-19, rectifying false content and making it less visible.

The petition, disseminated through the Avaaz platform and addressed to the directors of Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube, assures that the coronavirus pandemic is also “a global infodemic” in which viral disinformation “endangers lives throughout the world “with false messages.

“Stories that affirm that cocaine is a cure or that China or the United States developed COVID-19 as a biological weapon have spread more rapidly than the virus itself,” says the manifesto, signed by health officials from the United States, Spain, and Portugal. Italy, Brazil, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands or Belgium.

This “infodemic” also affects Spain, since many citizens receive on their mobiles and networks “content without the slightest scientific rigor that spreads faster than the virus itself,” the director of Global Analysis and Development at ISGlobal told EFE. , Rafael Vilasanjuan, one of the signatories of the document.

Disinformation in health is “a threat that endangers health and may eventually cost lives,” said the director of this research center on infectious and non-communicable diseases and the environment, in which the Hospital Clínic and del Mar de Barcelona, ​​the universities of Barcelona and Pompeu Fabra and the “La Caixa” Foundation.

“There is a lot of buzz, a lot of hoax and also a lot of half truth. A lot of misinformation, but also a lot of need for answers,” added the specialist, about a flood of misinformation that collides with science “taking time to generate answers.”

False content often promotes “deceptive cures” and keeps people away from effective vaccines and treatments, effects that are noticeable in hospitals, which in countries like the United States report spikes in diseases such as measles due to the influence of anti-vaccine movements , the letter signatories warn.

According to Vilasanjuan, anti-vaccine movements in Spain do not have the strength they have in the United States or France, but that does not mean that disinformation raises doubts in the Spanish.

“Here, the degree of acceptance of vaccines is one of the highest in Europe, there are denialists but they do not have as much impact. The problem is reluctant or complacent, people who no longer see risk in the disease and do without the vaccine. The information on the networks about lack of security or unproven side effects raise doubts, “he explained.

The health signatories of this letter demand that those responsible for digital platforms rectify the disinformation on health, alerting those who have interacted with it and sharing “a well-designed and independently verified correction.”

The manifesto also calls for platforms to “detoxify” the algorithms that determine the content that each user sees, so that “harmful lies and the pages and groups that share them become less visible” and to eliminate the pages and channels of violators. repeat offenders.

“What we ask is that social networks prioritize reliable sources of information, as Google did for example in the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, showing the way forward,” added Rafael Vilasanjuan.

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