October 20, 2020

One in five hoaxes on WhatsApp is about the prevention of COVID-19



One in five hoaxes spread through the courier service WhatsApp about COVID-19 is about prevention or cure, according to the study prepared by researchers from the Chair of Journalism at the University of Valencia.

These hoaxes, as reported by the UV in a statement, are usually based on the principle of medical authority and basically promote the use and consumption of substances of natural origin.

The majority recommend classic home remedies against the flu, such as taking Vitamin C, garlic or honey, or inhaling steam.

Others instead invite do not use moisturizers to which SARS-CoV-2 could stick; gargle with antiseptics, disinfectants, or antibacterials; taking antimalarials, such as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine; as well as irrigate the nasal area with alkaline solutions or apply hot air to this area with a dryer.

Hoaxes have also been detected that recommend, as prevention against COVID, expose yourself to the sun, a diet rich in alkaline foods or incorporate an ionizer to the car.

“The main objective of the work was to identify the type of hoaxes that were circulating through private messaging during the state of alarm in Spain due to COVID-19; that is, how these viral messages reached the public and no scientific evidence“, highlighted one of its authors, Carolina Moreno.

The article, published in the magazine ‘Gaceta’, is also signed by researchers Empar Vengut, Lorena Cano and Isabel Mendoza.

Regarding the message sent by the hoaxes, the prevention of the infection by SARS-CoV-2 was the only issue of 50.8% of the messages; healing in 31.7%; the two objectives combined was 7.9% of the cases; and messages that only intended to recommend actions represented 9.5%.

In most of these materials, it has been found that the subject who appeared in the hoaxes was medical personnel (36.5%), anonymous person (30.9%), political personnel (12.7%), scientists and scientists ( 9.5%) and individuals who advocated alternative therapies (6.3%).

Regarding gender, 45.2% of hoaxes, collected between March 18 and April 18, had as protagonists men, while 13.5% were women. Due to their type, most of these messages were text chains (39%) and videos (30%).

The article highlights that the volume of these messages in the analyzed period corresponded to the phenomenon called infodemic, term coined by the who to describe the misinformation produced in situations of widespread alarm and conspiracy theories.

In order to carry out this study, a telephone number was enabled to receive hoaxes on WhatsApp. 2,353 messages were obtained, of which 584 hoaxes were identified.

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