COVID-19 has torn through the fabric of our lives all over the world - with over 20M cases and nearly 1M deaths, and a global collapse in GDP that is historically unprecedented. Will it have long term impact, and what will that look like - economically, politically, and socially?
Coronavirus will impact our societiesShow moreShow less
On a macro level, coronavirus may have significant social effects.
Our information system is not fit for purpose, and a global emergency demonstrates this. Social Networks are optimised to spread the shocking and sensational at speed. The panic caused by a global pandemic will test the system to breaking point.
As coronavirus spreads, the accompanying panic brings with it fake news, as rumours spread and content creators see a chance to capitalise on uncertainty. Many of the top YouTube videos on coronavirus, for instance, were demonstrated to carry within them hoaxes or significant misinformation.
The way that social media spreads news essentially incentivises misinformation and misbehaviour. Regardless of whether they are true, the more sensational the story, the more likely it is that it will be shared and engaged with, and the more likely it is that someone, somewhere, makes money from it.
Misinformation is woefully under-policed on the internet. Events like coronavirus highlight this, meaning that “unverified videos from Chinese social media are shared by local Twitter influencers, viral WhatsApp forwards warn users of government advisories that don’t actually exist, and people share bogus cures for the virus.” The impact this ultimately has on the spread of coronavirus and whether it leads to an overhaul of how we police fake news remains to be seen.
[P1] The way in which we spread information online incentivises the creation of sensationalist stories.
[P2] When a serious event like coronavirus occurs, people will jump at the opportunity to utilise the panic to spread misinformation.