In Italy Facebook and Twitter are not the primary social media apps of Italians generally speaking. More than ever WhatsApp and Instagram are the mobile apps of choice for social media messaging and these apps have been the cause of many fake news stories where local gossip is translated into a media story only later to be discovered as fake. There are even fake animal stories in abundance on social media on Instagram and Twitter and filters on Instagram that made claims to diagnose—and even cure—COVID-19.
Remember the ibuprofen scare that was said to originate from a friend of a doctor at the Medical University of Vienna in March? The claim, originally made as a voice recording in German and quickly translated to many other languages in message form, was that COVID-19 was either caused by or aggravated by patients taking ibuprofen. I saw about thirty tweets to this effect in March that many people aimlessly executed without reading any verifiable studies on this claim. Well, it turns out this was a hoax and wildly successful since even today people are still retweeting the fake news for which there is zero scientific basis.
While fake news is not endemic to Italy, it is having an increasing impact in other European nations as WhatsApp has become the primary vehicle for transmitting fraudulent news stories. Now for every rumour on social media, major and independent news is tasked with correcting the fake news reports to include telling readers how to deal with what is now called an “infodemic.”
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