News in the Time of Coronavirus #44

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Deepnews Digest #44

News in the Time of Coronavirus

With the spread of COVID-19 the world is also facing what the World Health Organization has called an “infodemic.” This means not just blatant fake news and scams, but also the media twisting or mishandling raw information about the disease, sometimes without a bad intent. Deepnews wants to help. This Digest, powered by the Deepnews Scoring Model and based off of our most popular weekly Distill, Matter of Facts, covers fact-checking and all things coronavirus misinformation.

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Story Source
One Zero (Medium)
If you were on Twitter Monday, there’s a solid chance you ran across the tweet below, imploring readers not to use hand sanitizer to guard against the coronavirus. In less than a day, it was retweeted nearly 100,000 times and racked up a quarter of a million likes. It was probably seen by millions, and its central message is one that others picked up on and began spreading themselves. It even metastasized to Facebook.

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First Draft News
Even the familiar image of the globe inaccurately distorts the size of countries on the equator, making them seem smaller.

Editor’s Note: One common type of misinformation is including an image that doesn’t exactly correspond to the situation at hand. Here First Draft looks at the issue of maps, including ones that sparked panic around coronavirus.

The Guardian
People of east Asian appearance are being abused and attacked as #coronaracism becomes a pandemic.

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The Atlantic
Americans are desperate to believe the worst about one another.

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Buzzfeed
One department said it was trying to trick people into turning in their drugs.

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Inside Story
SARS broke out in China’s Guandong province in November 2002. It spread to twenty-eight countries, infecting 8096 people and killing 774. By July 2003, though, the epidemic was over. In its 2006 report, SARS: How a Global Epidemic Was Stopped, the World Health Organization argued that the outbreak’s first lesson was that “we were lucky this time.” The reasons were simple: “If cases were infectious before symptoms appeared, or if asymptomatic cases transmitted the virus, the disease would have been much more difficult, perhaps even impossible, to control.”

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The New York Times
The outbreak threatens the stability of everything from information systems to Amazon orders.

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Northeastern University
Think of all the false rumors that went viral about COVID-19—it got so bad, the World Health Organization called it an “infodemic.” Whether it is in hoaxes or a viral conspiracy theory, information travels fast these days. Just how fast and far information moves depends on who shares it, and where, from discussions on social media to conversations with fellow commuters on your way to work.

Editor’s Note: Beyond the world of fact-checkers, there are also academics who study how misinformation spreads. Here Northeastern explains research that looks into social contagion and how events in the real world also influence it.

Nikkei
TOKYO/HONG KONG/TAIPEI — The new coronavirus outbreak gripping the world has unleashed a wave of scams and fake news in Asia, from rip-offs and computer viruses to false reports of infected leaders and grisly tales of dead bodies.

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South China Morning Post
A much-shared photo said to show panic buying in the Vancouver satellite of Richmond wasn’t even taken in Canada – but fuelled real panic buying in the region.

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POLITICO
“Well, I think the 3.4 percent is really a false number. Now, and this is just my hunch, and — but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this,” Trump said, going on to peg the real figure as “way under 1 percent.”

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Belfast Telegraph
Pandemic panic could be more contagious than the illness itself, says Fionola Meredith.

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The Telegraph
You know things are getting serious when Donald Trump appears live on television for almost an hour without sparking outrage or mayhem.

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Reuters
BEIJING/SHANGHAI – The video game “Plague Inc”, which has surged in popularity amid the coronavirus epidemic, has been removed from Apple’s China app store after regulators said it contained illegal content, its developer said.

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Foreign Policy
Intelligence services have a long history of manipulating information on health issues, and an epidemic is especially tempting for interference. Why aren’t we better prepared?

Editor’s Note: Part of the unfortunate reality is that information about health has in the past been manipulated by countries. Here Bruce Schneier and Margaret Bourdeaux look at issues including social media and hospital hacking.

Mainichi
Amid the spread of the new coronavirus, toilet paper and tissues are being sold out at retail stores across Japan. This is the result of people buying up the products despite there being an abundance of them in stock.

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CNN
A Facebook account impersonating the Swain County board of elections in North Carolina. Unfounded rumors that Tarrant County, Texas, doesn’t have former Vice President Joe Biden on the ballot. Wrong claims in Maine that Election Day is on different days for Republicans than for Democrats.

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The Atlantic
BOLOGNA, Italy—I am sitting in the middle of this northern Italian city, two hours’ drive from the Lombardian towns that have been quarantined. At this precise moment in time, Bologna has not produced a single instance of the new coronavirus. One or two people with the disease, known as COVID-19, have been moved into the hospital here from other regions, but nobody around me, or anywhere near me, is ill. Yet at the American university where I am a guest lecturer, we speak of little else.

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The New York Times
Experts offer advice on how parents can help adolescents get the facts straight and be prepared.

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AFP
Although Chinese authorities did not publicly acknowledge the severity of the virus until January 20, censorship began as early as December 31, said researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.

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NBC News
NOVI SANZHARY, Ukraine — By the time the riot police turned up, things were already out of control. In this rural Ukrainian town of about 8,000 people, residents reacted with anger after evacuees from the center of the coronavirus outbreak in China were airlifted to a nearby medical facility last month.

Editor’s Note: Information can also have real world consequences, such as for the bus of evacuees in Ukraine attacked by protesters. Here NBC reports from Novi Sanzhary

Inc 42
WHO is working with tech companies to take tougher action on virus-related fake news.

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Malta Today
Critics on Facebook claims group admin is peddling medical claims from questionable sources, and attempting to profit from gullible individuals.

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WSJ ($)
Facebook Inc. and other technology giants have vowed to fight misinformation related to the coronavirus epidemic on their platforms. Yet even as they remove fraudulent posts, listings and other content, conspiracy theories and false information continue to proliferate online.

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AP
Wikipedia’s Farsi-language website appears to be disrupted in Iran after a close confidant to the country’s supreme leader died of the new coronavirus, an activist group said Tuesday, as the Islamic Republic suffers the highest death rate from the epidemic outside of China.

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