Fact checkers worldwide team up to debunk false info about 2019-nCoV

Pauline Macaraeg

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Fact checkers worldwide team up to debunk false info about 2019-nCoV


At least 48 fact-checking units around the world are fighting false information about the novel coronavirus. Claims range from 'miraculous vaccines' to conspiracy theories.

MANILA, Philippines – At least 48 fact-checking organizations worldwide are collaborating to debunk false information shared online about the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Rappler is taking part in the initiative.

The International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) launched the collaborative project on Friday, January 24.

So far, the 3 biggest trends of misinformation and disinformation that have spread online are:

  • the launch of a “miraculous vaccine”
  • wrong information about the source of the virus
  • conspiracy theories

“The collaborative project, coordinated by the IFCN, will be active for as long as the disease spreads worldwide and can be followed on social media channels through two hashtags, #CoronaVirusFacts and #DatosCoronaVirus,” IFCN associate director Cristina Tardáguila wrote in her article published on Poynter on Tuesday, January 28.

IFCN said the “first big wave of misinformation” was about a patent of the virus created a few years ago. Among the organizations that fact checked this were US-based Lead Stories, Fact-Check.org, and PolitiFact.

Following this, the Taiwan Fact-Check Center then debunked several posts about ways to protect people from the virus, as well as methods to cure the ones who have contracted it. Since Taiwan is geographically close to China, this “second wave of falsehoods” became big there, IFCN said.

The “third wave of hoaxes” was about the sources of the novel coronavirus. Although there are studies that suggest bats and snakes play a role in the outbreak, the origin hasn’t been confirmed yet as of posting.

“In the next few days, an interesting subject should pop up: Will the anti-vaccination movement try to take any advantage out of this? Brazilian fact-checking unit Agência Lupa is keeping track of that,” Tardáguila added.

In the Philippines, Rappler has also debunked a number of false claims about the 2019-nCoV.

So far, the false claims that circulated nationwide were mostly about “confirmed cases” of the 2019-nCoV in the country. There was also a claim that wrongly associated the novel coronavirus with rabies, which may cause confusion about the nature and classification of the new illness.

The 2019-nCoV first emerged in December 2019 in the city of Wuhan, a major transport hub in China that has a population of 11 million. Since it is a new strain of coronavirus, much is still unknown about it. Read this to understand what we know so far about the novel coronavirus. – Rappler.com

Rappler’s fact checks on the 2019-nCoV:

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Pauline Macaraeg

Pauline Macaraeg is digital forensics researcher for Rappler. She started as a fact checker and researcher in 2019, before becoming part of Rappler's Digital Forensics Team. She writes about the developing digital landscape, as well as the spread and impact of disinformation and harmful online content. When she's not working, you can find her listening to podcasts or K-pop bops.