Fake news on nCoV in social media

OPINION
By SUSAN PALMES-DENNIS
February 6, 2020

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HOPEFULLY this piece sees print on or before this week’s (Feb. 8 elections of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club so I can greet those running for elective posts the best of luck).

Whoever wins should have the best interests of the club members at heart first and foremost.  Based on what I heard and read on social media, the Feb. 8 elections would be quite ‘bibo’ or lively and it’s likely I would have a front row seat to witness the fireworks.

Obviously I won’t be disclosing whoever it is I’m supporting but suffice it to say that even when I left Cagayan de Oro for life in the US I do keep close tabs with the local media community and I make it a point to meet up with them whenever I come home to the City of Golden Friendship.

Again, best wishes and good luck to everyone at the COPC elections. The members will certainly need more than luck to vote for whom they know and feel to be the most qualified and most committed to serve the club’s interests and the winners will only have one year to serve them.

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Admittedly we don’t know much about the novel coronavirus (nCoV) so far be it for all of us to underestimate its threat to our health.  At the same time, we should avoid stoking fear and panic among the general public with social media posts about the virus that have no medical or scientific basis.

As per latest report, there was a third nCoV case involving an elderly female Chinese who supposedly traveled to Bohol province and initially tested negative for the virus but was later declared positive by the Department of Health (DOH).  It remains to be seen who she had contact with and we have to wait for DOH word on this.

What is clear is that there is an atmosphere of palpable fear among Filipinos that was sufficient enough to spark an #oustDuterte trend on Twitter.  President Rodrigo Duterte’s followers would do well not to ignore this even if their patron and his party remain dominant in the political landscape.

It also doesn’t help the Duterte administration that their troll army is spreading fake news about nCoV cases in the country such as that wildly outrageous claim posted by the DDS troll army on Facebook about two coronavirus infected Chinese that tested positive in Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC).

Regional Director Adriano Suba-an of the Department of Health (DOH-10) quickly clarified that one of these two suspected persons under investigation (PUI) tested negative for the virus, debunking the DDS-CDO troll army claim but the harm may have already been done with the public on edge.

It remains to be seen if the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will fulfill its mandate to go after these fake news trolls responsible for the NMMC claim. My sentiments towards this latest stunt of the DDS-CDO trolls who conveniently hide behind anonymity and claim support from the administration can only be described as ‘astonished repugnance.’

The utter gall and brazen bare-faced lies these trolls spread on social media should be met with the sheer full force of the law.  And this is where the NBI is supposed to come in. I won’t be surprised if instead of ferreting out these scoundrels they would find scapegoats in order to produce results.

Aside from aggravating public tension, the lies and misinformation on nCoV only serve to further advance the interests of those who would profit from it such as the sale of N95 masks that should only be worn by those already suffering from illnesses as well as health workers who deal with ill people on a daily basis. And those who are responsible for this garbage should be held accountable and penalized.


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