False information surges during the COVID-19 disaster in India

New Delhi (AP) — A man on WhatsApp video says he saw it work on his own. Put a few drops of lemon juice in your nose to cure COVID-19.

“If I practice what I’m about to say with faith, I’ll be free from corona in five seconds,” says a man in traditional religious clothing. “This one lemon protects you from viruses like a vaccine.”

Wrong treatment.. A terrifying story of vaccine side effects.Unfounded claims are Muslim Virus spread.. Driven by government distress, despair and mistrust, rumors and hoaxes are spreading through word-of-mouth and Indian social media, exacerbating the country’s humanitarian crisis.

Rahul Namboori, co-founder of Fact Crescendo, India’s independent fact-checking organization, said:

Treatments such as lemon juice may sound harmless, but such claims can have fatal consequences if people skip vaccinations or ignore other guidelines. There is.

January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Declaration India said, “By effectively containing the corona, we saved humanity from the catastrophe.”As life began to resume, so did attendance Cricket match, Religious pilgrimage And Political rally For the Hindu Nationalist Party of Modi.

Four months later, the incident and the dead exploded. Vaccine deployment Debilitated The anger and distrust of the people are increasing.

Sumitra Badrinasan, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania studying false information in India, said: “Some people use it to criticize the government, others use it to support it.”

Distrust of Western vaccines and health care also drives false information about quackery, as well as claims about traditional treatments.

Satyanarayan Prasad watched a video about lemon juice and believed it. A 51-year-old resident of Uttar Pradesh is distrustful of modern medicine and has a theory as to why health professionals in his country are seeking vaccines.

“If the government approves Lemon Drop as a remedy, the rupees spent on the vaccine will be wasted,” Prasad said.

Vijay Sankeshwar, a prominent businessman and former politician, reiterated his claims about lemon juice, saying that dropping two drops of nostrils would increase oxygen levels in the body.

Vitamin C is essential for human health and immunity, There is no evidence Its consumed lemon repels the coronavirus.

This claim extends to Indian immigrants.

“They have the fact that if you drink lemon water every day, you’re not affected by the virus,” said Emma Sakdef of Clinton, NJ, where the extended family lives in India.

Sachdev said some relatives were infected but continued to ignore the rules of social distance, believing that visits to the temple would keep them safe.

India has also experienced the same type of false information about vaccines and vaccine side effects found around the world.

Last month, popular Tamil actor Vivek died two days after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination. The hospital where he died said Vivek had advanced heart disease, but his death was confiscated by vaccination opponents as evidence that the government was hiding side effects.

Much of the misinformation goes to WhatsApp, which has more than 400 million users in India. Unlike more open sites like Facebook and Twitter, Facebook-owned WhatsApp is an encrypted platform that allows users to personally exchange messages.

Bad information online “may have come from an unprotected neighbor who isn’t trying to do harm,” said Badrinasan, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. New to them “

The hoax that spread online had fatal consequences in 2018. At least 20 people were killed By a mob inflamed by a post about what appears to be a gang of child kidnappers.

WhatsApp said in a statement that it is working hard to limit misleading and dangerous content by working with public health agencies such as the World Health Organization and fact-finding agencies. The platform also adds safeguards to limit the spread of chain messages and direct users to accurate online information.

The service also makes it easier for users in India and other countries to find information about vaccinations using this service.

“False claims can discourage people from vaccination, seeking the help of a doctor, or taking the virus seriously,” said Namboli of Fact Crescendo. “The stakes are higher than ever.”


Klepper was reported by Providence, and RIAP communications writer Mallika Sen contributed to this report from Los Angeles.