Lack of quality reporting in Arabic makes virus misinformation more dangerous. FMTNews
Lack of quality reporting in Arabic makes virus misinformation more dangerous.
With 75% penetration among internet users in the Middle East, misinformation is widely spread on WhatsApp. (Reuters pic)As authorities work to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, activists across the Middle East are stepping up to combat the Arabic “infodemic” they say is as dangerous as the infection itself.
The pictures are marked with a red stamp reading “fake post”, accompanied by a correction and links to more accurate information.The corrections campaign could not have come sooner: the region appears to be experiencing a long-feared Covid-19 spike.Doctors in Iraq blame online misinformation: their patients have insisted coronavirus is an American conspiracy, or people are actually dying from a sarin gas attack, or that Iraq’s blistering heat would halt the virus’s spread.
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By - July 21, 2020 10:31 AM With 75% penetration among internet users in the Middle East, misinformation is widely spread on WhatsApp.Battle heats up between French insurers, virus-hit businesses Monday, 20 Jul 2020 06:59 AM MYT A commercial court in Paris on Friday ordered insurer Albingia to pay five hotels a provisional €450,000 (RM2.By - July 20, 2020 1:06 PM LONDON: British retailer Marks and Spencer Group Plc plans to announce hundreds of job cuts in the coming week, Sky News reported on Sunday, citing sources.By - July 20, 2020 1:25 PM People wearing face masks walk at a pedestrian crossing in Tokyo on July 16.
(Reuters pic) BAGHDAD: Browse through Arabic-language social media pages and you could walk away thinking Covid-19 is an American hoax, isn’t deadly and can be swiftly cured with a garlic clove. Arabic pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are brimming with fake news stories on the novel coronavirus, from benign inaccuracies to full-throated conspiracy theories. — Reuters pic PARIS, July 20 — A French insurance company said yesterday it would challenge a court ruling ordering it to pay nearly half a million euros to five hotels for losses incurred during the coronavirus lockdown. As authorities work to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, activists across the Middle East are stepping up to combat the Arabic “infodemic” they say is as dangerous as the infection itself. “We don’t comment on speculation and, if and when we have an announcement to make, our colleagues will be the first to know,” an M&S spokesman said. “We correct the news and save lives,” said Baher Jassem, an Iraqi activist from the Tech 4 Peace collective, which switched from its four-year campaign against fake political and economic news to setting the record straight on Covid-19. A commercial court in Paris on Friday ordered insurer Albingia to pay five hotels a provisional €450,000 (RM2. Every few hours, the collective’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages publish screenshots of fabricated news stories about the virus, from claims about new remedies to celebrity deaths from the illness or a reassuring wave of recoveries. In a similar survey by the Nikkei business daily, some 80% of respondents said it was too early to launch such a programme.
The pictures are marked with a red stamp reading “fake post”, accompanied by a correction and links to more accurate information. The court found the hotels’ claims for lost income was indeed covered by the insurance policies they held with Albingia. London-headquartered M&S will be the latest retailer to join firms like health and beauty chain Boots and department store John Lewis in warning that thousands of jobs would be at risk. Their accounts reach more than one million followers. “We don’t just want to expose lies. “We are sensitive to the great difficulties being experienced by the hotel sector, but insurers cannot absorb the consequences of the economic crisis, which is outside of the contractual framework,” Albingia said. We want to spread awareness about the coronavirus, the right way to protect yourself, the wrong remedies that are circulating,” Jassem told AFP. Subscribe to our newsletter and get news delivered to your mailbox. The corrections campaign could not have come sooner: the region appears to be experiencing a long-feared Covid-19 spike.” At the end of June, insurer Axa said it had settled with several hundred restaurant owners to cover a “substantial part” of their losses because of the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown. Subscribe to our newsletter and get news delivered to your mailbox.
Iraq’s daily case rate increase exploded to more than 2,000 in late June, nearing 3,000 per day this month. Lebanon, Oman and Algeria saw peaks of daily new cases in mid-July, while Saudi Arabia and Jordan witnessed crests in late June but appear to be stabilising. Insurer Credit Mutuel has similarly been taken to court by a restaurant owner, but judges said they did not have jurisdiction to rule in the dispute. Doctors in Iraq blame online misinformation: their patients have insisted coronavirus is an American conspiracy, or people are actually dying from a sarin gas attack, or that Iraq’s blistering heat would halt the virus’s spread. Medics say such false information could make people less likely to wear masks in public, abide by social distancing or wash their hands regularly. The tourism sector in France — including hotels and restaurants — employs about two million people and represents more than seven percent of gross domestic product. ‘This is personal’ Misinformation about Covid-19 has been spreading in various languages since the pandemic’s early days, but the proliferation in Arabic is particularly dangerous because of the lack of quality reporting, activists told AFP.
Indeed, Reporters Without Borders has noted authorities’ tightening control over media in the Middle East in 2020, specifically over information relating to Covid-19. — AFP Related Articles. As a result, activists said, news consumers are suspicious of the information they find in traditional outlets and more likely to entertain conspiracy theories. “Media literacy is non-existent. Iraqis can go on Facebook and Twitter but are not really equipped to see 50 different sources and differentiate what’s fact and what’s fiction,” said Faisal al-Mutar, a US-based Iraqi activist and founder of Ideas Beyond Borders. IBB has partnered with Wikipedia to translate more than 250 detail-rich pages on Covid-19’s origins and spread into Arabic.
It’s no easy task given the Arabic language’s diverse dialects, said volunteer translator Issam Fawwaz, based in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. “The scientific terms aren’t standardised. A term used in Syria, Lebanon or Jordan is totally different from Egypt or Morocco,” while some English terms have no Arabic equivalents, 33-year-old Fawwaz told AFP. But conviction in the impact of his work has kept him going. “This is personal for me.
I was one of those people that used to believe fake news, but I was lucky to have people who pushed me to use my brain,” he said. “One person persuaded by a fake news story can spark a calamity in his community.” Fighting fire with fire Fatabayyano, a Jordan-based platform founded in 2014 whose name translates to “Verify”, is fighting fire with fire. “Fake news spreads faster than real news – and the amount of misinformation on WhatsApp is absolutely huge,” said Motaz al-Thaher, Fatabayyano’s media manager. WhatsApp boasts 75% penetration among internet users in the Middle East, according to a 2019 study by the Northwestern University in Qatar.
People use it to stay in touch with friends and family, but also to share links, photos and audio messages on current affairs, often unverified. There are few regulations to fight misinformation on WhatsApp, Thaher said, as messages are encrypted and the platform can’t flag suspicious messages the way Facebook and Twitter can. So Fatabayyano created its own channel, sending fact-based coronavirus reporting to thousands of WhatsApp users simultaneously. The messages include links to long science-based Arabic articles on Fatabayyano’s website, bright virus-related graphics on its Instagram page and punchy one-minute videos to its nearly 800,000 Facebook followers. “Rumours are viruses too!” reads the new caption under the campaign’s logo.
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