The 2003 outbreak of extreme acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) left 44 Canadians lifeless, however it wasn’t documented on social media. That is as a result of Fb, Twitter and YouTube did not exist again then.
“Social media provides an entire new layer to all of this messaging that is on the market that I did not need to take care of after I was reporting on SARS,” Maureen Taylor mentioned at present on The Weekly with Wendy Mesley. Maureen was CBC’s The Nationwide well being correspondent who reported on the lethal outbreak again in 2003.
Pretend information in regards to the coronavirus is now flooding the net, and lots of are taking to social media to debate the virus, particularly in China.
“It’s certainly serving to info to movement throughout the nation,” mentioned Zhaoyin Feng, Washington correspondent for the BBC’s Chinese language Service.
However Feng additionally known as it a double-edged sword.
“Social media has additionally change into a scorching mattress for misinformation.”
Every single day, Feng says she opens her Weibo and WeChat to search out an abundance of headlines in regards to the outbreak. However there’s virtually no solution to know whether or not any of it is true.
Formally, persons are being instructed to not panic. But, horrifying movies, a few of which embody docs and sufferers collapsing on the hospital ground, are circulating. One viral publish claims that setting off fireworks can sterilize germs within the air. That unfold so extensively, Chinese language officers needed to publicly debunk it.
In line with Feng, some Chinese language persons are criticizing their very own authorities on social media for not being extra open with details about the coronavirus. Through the SARS outbreak, it wasn’t doable to exert stress through social media.
“There was loads of criticism in opposition to the native authority of Wuhan, saying they delayed the efforts of combating the virus by overlaying up some info on the early stage,” mentioned Feng. “It is also making it onerous for the Chinese language authorities to cowl up the story.”
With Twitter banned in China, residents should go for Weibo and WeChat — messaging platforms recognized to be monitored by the Chinese language state.
On-line censors are busy scrubbing materials the state deems “too alarming” and, in line with AFP information, police arrested eight individuals for posting what it calls “rumours” in regards to the virus.
Feng mentioned many in China are asking one query:
“Why, why could not one thing be achieved earlier?”
How open has China been about coronavirus?
On Thursday, China’s President Xi Jinping tried to reassure the worldwide group China was being open.
“China stands able to work with the worldwide group to successfully curb the unfold of the pneumonia circumstances brought on by a brand new pressure of coronavirus to uphold world well being safety,” he mentioned.
Initially, China was praised for its transparency in combating the virus, one thing that did not occur through the SARS outbreak again in 2003.
However as extra details about the virus unfolds, persons are beginning to query the Chinese language authorities’s preliminary statements.
“Sadly now, it is trying slightly bit like they weren’t as forthcoming as they need to have been,” mentioned Taylor.
“They initially mentioned there was no human-to-human transmission… and that all of it originated from an animal available in the market giving it to someone who labored there. And that is not true. They mentioned there have been no health-care staff affected … Properly now we all know there have been 14 health-care staff affected.”
“It is beginning to really feel rather a lot like SARS so far as what the Chinese language are saying,” mentioned Taylor.
Now working as a doctor assistant at an area Toronto hospital, Taylor says she is assured the illness will likely be contained rapidly “if we’ve got transparency and the suitable info popping out.”