COVID-19 threatens to test information ecosystem as misinformation goes viral – Macau Business

The COVID-19 epidemic threatens to test global information ecosystem, as misinformation going viral on social media can amplify tensions and, as a result, breed a volatile political climate, an opinion piece in the New York Times has said.

In the event of widespread illness, well need to rely on accurate, vetted information to keep us safe, said the article titled Coronavirus Will Test Our New Way of Life on Monday.

While the internet has made distribution easier than ever before, the democratization of information has created platforms and advertising economies built to reward misinformation, it noted.

The spread of misinformation hoaxes and rumors about the outbreak in China have plagued popular social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook while adapting to new platforms, it said.

Unverified videos from Chinese social media are shared by local Twitter influencers, viral WhatsApp forwards warn users of government advisories that dont actually exist, and people share bogus cures for the virus, the author quoted U.S. website BuzzFeed News senior reporter Ryan Broderick as saying.

It has been made clear over the past few years that our social media ecosystem is easily hijacked to incentivize behavior from the worst actors, further amplifying existing tensions and disagreements, the article said.

The result of the problem is a volatile political climate, where news is weaponized for political gain, it noted, adding the state is further exacerbated by black-box algorithms protected as corporate secrets that dictate the information we see.

In the fallout, trust in what we see online decreases, and news fatigue grows more widespread, especially among the least engaged political-news consumers, it said.

Should the virus reach extreme levels of infection globally, it would very likely be the first true test of the 21st-century way of life defined by constant connectivity, it said.

Peoples way of life has shifted from individuals to markets, and from localized to globalized, the article explained, adding that so far this interconnectivity has largely been a strength.

However, much like a virus exploits a small vulnerability, creating a chain of reactions that allow it to weaken its host, a true global pandemic could work its way through the interconnected ecosystems that support our present way of life, it said.

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COVID-19 threatens to test information ecosystem as misinformation goes viral - Macau Business

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