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The most popular Fake News in the time of Coronavirus

One of the best remedies to protect yourself from the threats of the most common cyber-attacks, is definitely to keep a good antivirus system constantly updated on all your devices. This tools in fact are able to protect you from the most common malicious codes and malware. 

But there is a threat that can only be defeated through one weapon: yourself and your awareness. 

We are talking about fake news: invented, deceptive or distorted information made to obtain illicit advantages. 

The only remedy not to fall into these trivial scamsand not to be influenced by bogus information, is to deeply inquire and research, on different sources, especially institutional ones. 

Awareness of what is happening around us, and the knowledge of the threat itself, are in fact the only remedies to avoid the information fraudsters. 

Let’s find out what are the most common fake news today, regarding a very popular and discussed topic at this time:  Corona Virus

Fake news about the virus’ origins 

Let’s start from the basics: since this health crisis began, there have been many questions about the origins of the virus. 

It has been clarified that the epicenter of the contagion was the city of Wuhan, in the market area, where there is a large sale of live wild animals and hygiene conditions are scarce. We know for sure it is therefore a virus born and transmitted by animals to people. 

On the web, however, there were many hypotheses about the birth of the Covid-19:  for example, the story of an American scientist, professor Charles Lieber, who would sell the Coronavirus to China. This scientist really exists, has a professorship at Harvard in chemistry and biological chemistry and was truly arrested for denying his relations with China, particularly with the Wuhan Technology University. 

The fake news in question, therefore, starts from real characters and events, and then turns the real information into a hoax: among the charges in fact there has never been that of virus trafficking, because the virus, as we have said, provenly comes from the animal world and not from any laboratory. 

Let’s name another imaginative fake news that doesn’t really originate from true characters: the one that blames the birth of the virus on aliens, who seem to be using The Coronavirus to conquer the planet. 

Also, have you heard about the fake news stating that the virus would have been invented by France and the United States, collaborating to bring the Chinese giant to its knees and, at the same time, punish Italy, and in particular the political leader Luigi Di Maio, for signing the economic pact on the new Silk Road with China? That’s a twisted one for sure. 

How do Social Media cope? 

The main social media platforms are trying to contain the spread of fake news now more than ever, to avoid further panic. 

So let’s see how the different platforms are responding: 

  1. Facebook has been fighting fake news since the end of January, implementing its removal policy, and also the activation of a fact-checking service (investigating the events mentioned and the data used in a text or speech), as part of the co-regulation initiative defined by Agcom to address the challenge of disinformation on Coronavirus. 
  1. Whatsapp has started a collaboration with Pagella Politica, an Italian site dedicated entirely to fact-checking policy statements, which will allow WhatsApp users to send shared messages on the platform regarding the Covid-19, so that the fact checker can verify its accuracy. 
  1. Twitter has started testing medical experts and is deleting tweets containing fake news, including those from institutional figures. 
  1. YouTube has stated that it is deleting videos that spread false information about Coronavirus, such as miracle cures or preventative methods, and the many videos about the various conspiracy theories. 
Coronavirus conspiracy theories and fake news 

Some of the conspiracy theories revolving around the corona universe have such engaging plots…sometimes they’re even able to confuse even the most informed readers. 

Some stories say the pandemic is actually a game of interest behind which there would be the so-called Agenda ID2020 protocol, which involves the spread of a vaccine containing a microchip to inject to the entire population to control it through 5G, the new standard for mobile communication. 

Other stories claim that the virus serves to balance overpopulation on Earth, others that it was a  machination of Bill Gates, financially supported by the master of the WHO being the largest private donor, and others that it is a secret bacteriological weapon that China has lost control of. 

Among the most common fake news we find the one that invites you to drink hot water above 28 degrees to kill the virus, the one that invites you to take more vitamin C  or  Paracetamol to defeat it, or the one that invites you to check the color of your blood, because it could be darker whether you are affected by Coronavirus. 

There was also racially motivated fake news, which claimed that non-EU nationals were immune  to the Covid thanks to the tuberculosis vaccine…and fake news about controversial political figures, such as the supposed release of lions in the streets of Moscow by the Russian leader Putin to force people to stay home. 

Russia is also the subject of another very famous fake news, telling that there was already a med in the country able to cure Covid, and this would be the reason why the data in the Russian Federation are very far from the European ones in terms of contagion. 

Even the most vulnerable, such as the elderly, were sent a fake letter report with a 50% reduction in pensions due to the emergency…and also our furry friends weren’t spared, with an increase in cases of pets abandonment following fake news reporting that our pets could be virus carriers. 

Tips & Tricks to spot and avoid Coronavirus fake news 

The big dilemma behind the prevention of Coronavirus-themed fake news is the absence of scientific certainties, as some issues are still being tested and defined in the scientific community. 

The advice that we can therefore give, in addition to the aforementioned fact-checking system, is to refer only to institutional, national and international sites, such as the National Institute of Health, the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization: 

  1. The National Institute of Health has provided a dedicated and always up-to-date page on the state of seasonal flu in Italy 
  1. The Ministry of Health has created a page dedicated to the coronavirus emergency where you can get answers on a whole range of issues concerning Coronavirus through a series of frequently asked questions. 
  1. The World Health Organization provides the information needed to remain updated on the most at risk areas and on the evolution of the virus. 
How to curb fake news in the days of smart-working 

Smart-working is increasingly connecting private and working life, and in this context, fake news can turn into a deadly weapon for cybercrime. Only the human factor is able to make a real difference. 

This does not mean that you have to become super expert in every topic, but it does mean that you have to be able to recognize fake news and the dangers lurking underneath them. 

Every organization should therefore invest precisely on human factor, to increase the awareness of non-specialist staff on the different types of cyber threats, through e-learning training paths with constant and gradual release. 

Because cybercrime threats can only be drastically eradicated through behavior-changing cyber security awareness training activities.

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