There's been a lot of fake news about the coronavirus spread around the Internet since the outbreak began.
Some of it has been (relatively) harmless, if a little weird, like the "news" that Russia was releasing 500 lions into the streets to force people indoors during the pandemic. The story was even shared by the UK host of The Apprentice, which I guess makes him the British Trump.
The image is actually taken from Johannesburg, South Africa in 2016, and shows a lion that had been borrowed from a lion park for filming by a production company, Snopes reports. Russia, as yet, isn't even under a nationwide lockdown, although Putin has declared next week a holiday and urged people to stay at home.
When these fake stories are put online, they are at least (again, relatively) easy to correct. Lord Sugar was widely corrected for believing that actual lions were patrolling the streets of Russia. But then there are more difficult rumors to correct, stories shared via so-called "dark social media", where emails and texts are shared privately through messenger apps and email without any (digital or otherwise) source of information.
A lot of these have been going around lately, some of which have prompted debunks from the World Health Organization.
"GOOD NEWS!!!" one read. "Wuhan's Coronavirus can cure itself * by a bowl of freshly boiled garlic water. The old Chinese doctor proved its effectiveness."
I'll just jump in here – if an old Chinese doctor had proved its effectiveness it would be on the front page of every newspaper in the world, not forwarded to you and five friends in a poorly worded text by Uncle Frank.
The text then goes on to suggest a recipe of 8 chopped garlic cloves boiled in water, which will leave you "improved and cured overnight". To be clear it definitely won't cure you, and it doesn't even sound like an acceptable soup.
Another, more dangerous one that has been shared 30,000 times on Facebook, claims:
"Take a deep breath and hold your breath for more than 10 seconds. If you complete it successfully without coughing, without discomfort, stuffiness or tightness, etc, it proves there is no fibrosis in the lungs, basically indicating no infection."
This one has potentially more serious consequences to it, as it could cause people who have the virus to not seek treatment or to refrain from self-isolating, and other patients to seek treatment (and therefore potentially come into contact with the virus) when they don't need to.
“Most young patients with coronavirus will be able to hold their breaths for much longer than 10 seconds," Faheem Younus MD, Chief Quality Officer and Chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of Maryland, tweeted in a debunking thread. "And many elderly without the virus won’t be able to do it.”
Another, more recent WhatsApp hoax has prompted people online to think about ways they can get their parents to stop spreading misinformation. There appears to be a message going around that the government (it doesn't specify which) is planning on spraying the streets with disinfectant from helicopters to prevent the spread.
Again, this would be on the news if this was the case, not just in your family WhatsApp group.
People are reporting arguing with their parents over text message about this piece of fake news.
One person shared his method for getting his parents to stop spreading fake news. By, uh, faking some news.
We can argue over the ethics of this, but he and others have said they had some success with the method.
Although we'd argue that the best method is to point them to verified news sources, or the debunk section of the World Health Organization website.