He coronavirus? A “plot of U.S“How to defeat him?” Summer kills all viruses. “In Arabic social networks proliferate false information about the disease COVID-19, before the concern of various groups trying to reestablish essential truths.
“By correcting information, we save lives,” says Baher Jassem, a member of the collective, to the AFP agency. Tech 4 Peace that has been fighting disinformation for four years in Iraq.
Several times a day, this group of network members shares all their corrections to false information with their million subscribers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The model is always the same: that they correct the announcement of a supposedly miraculous remedy, or the wrongly announced death of a celebrity, the false information appears in a screenshot, crossed out with a red stamp “Attention, false information!”, and accompanied by detailed explanations with good sources.
“The idea is not only to unravel lies. You have to give good information about the disease, ways to protect yourself, to avoid false remedies,” explains Jassem.
It is fact-checking (verification of the facts) occurs when several Arab countries enter the most critical phase of the pandemic.
Iraq, which was preserved for a long time, now registers about 3000 new cases per day. Oman, Algeria, and Lebanon peaked in contamination in mid-July, just after Saudi Arabia and Jordan
At a time when the health authorities recommend great caution, false information prompts certain people not to wear a mask, or to not respect the instructions for physical distance, several doctors report to the AFP.
In Iraq, they say they’ve heard of it all: “The new coronavirus is a plot by the United States,” according to some patients. “Actually, the dead of COVID-19 were victims of a secret gas attack“Others claim.” The heat of summer kills all viruses, “say many Iraqis.
This misinformation is so dangerous that local authorities have tightened control over the media regarding the pandemic, according to the NGO Reporters Without Borders.
For militants against false information, this control makes people are more suspicious of traditional media and are more likely to believe what they read on the Internet.
null”There is no media education. Iraqis go to Facebook and Twitter but are not trained to distinguish between fact and fiction,” Faisal al Mutar told AFP.
This Iraqi resident in the United States founded Ideas Beyond Borders (IBB), a network that has translated into Arabic, in association with Wikipedia, more than 250 pages of information about the virus.
Ensuring translation for the entire Arab world is a daily puzzle, says Issam Fawwaz, an IBB member who lives in Tripoli, Lebanon.
“A single person convinced of his false information is enough to cause a catastrophe in all his community”, he affirms.
To be visible, the Jordanians of the group “Fatabayyano” (“Verify!”, In Arabic) decided to go through the same channels as the false information they correct.
Since 2014, they send their corrections to thousands of subscribers via WhatsApp chains.
This courier service is one of the main providers of false information in the region. With 75% of users among Arab Internet users, the platform has become a means of massively sharing information whose authenticity is impossible to verify.
Contrary to Facebook or Twitter, WhatsApp messages are encrypted and cannot be read or signaled by the platform.
“The false information spread more quickly that the true information “assures AFP Motaz al Thaher, a member of Fatabayyano.
So the group tries to be everywhere: on its site with long articles in Arabic, on Instagram with graphics and on Facebook with videos for its 800,000 subscribers.
With a single slogan: “Rumors are also a virus!”