Experts warn: false information on COVID-19 on social media spreads fast

Date

2020 05 12

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Military experts report growing flow of disinformation on management of coronavirus and urge residents to stay alert and critical of conspiracy theories spread on social media by malicious individuals.

According to Mažvydas Kunevičius, Chief Lieutenant of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, the Strategic Communication Department, Lithuania is coping well with the challenges posed by the coronavirus, but the spread of information on social media is worrying.

"We notice an increasing spread of disinformation, misinformation and conspiracy theories on social media and some controversial websites," M. Kunevičius, in charge of disinformation management, said at the Emergency Operations Center of the Ministry of Health,.

According to him, since the beginning of February until now, 1 036 cases of misleading information have been recorded. Such misleading information is aimed at discrediting and complicating the decisions made to manage the spread of coronavirus in Lithuania. Malicious individuals try to divide society, increase the polarization between citizens and the state, spread national and racial hatred, stigmatize the sick and the elderly as well as people at risk.

According to the expert, the information attacks are supposed to upsurge the distrust of the Lithuanian Government and question the advantages of Lithuania's membership in the EU and NATO.

Lieutenant M. Kunevičius points out that since the beginning of the quarantine, such networks as Youtube, Facebook, VKontakte, Reddit, Twitter as well as controversial news portals and online blogs were used to spread misleading information and conspiracy theories. There were cases when e-mails were generated and sent to high-ranking officials, institutions and the media to perform information attacks. 

Disinformation encourages non-compliance with the quarantine requirements in Lithuania, not wearing masks, protesting against quarantine conditions that allegedly violate human rights. Social media appeals to the residents not to test for coronavirus infection, not to adhere to self-isolation, to avoid disinfecting hands, threatens with possible health problems, according to the military experts. One of the narratives - the coronavirus crisis does not exist in reality, it is all about controlling people while hospitals are empty and doctors are forced to falsify information. These are just a few examples of false information.

Therefore, Lithuanians are urged to critically assess the information found on social media, choose official websites of state institutions to check and verify data, use multiple sources for information, keep calm and refrain from overreacting after reading loud headlines on portals.

Key information on coronavirus is available at: www.koronastop.lt