Today, billions of people are connected to internet through different social media platforms. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, people are increasingly turning to these platforms to understand COVID-19. They are heavily relying on platforms such as Quora, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter amongst others for the updates and to learn the do’s and don’ts to remain safe from the greatest public health challenge in the contemporary times.
Following the announcement by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring 21-day pan India lockdown, the social media conversation about the virus crossed 22.3 million mark on 24 March, as per the research firm Nielsen. Perhaps, this was one of the main reasons why many people quickly adapted to the situation, reacting adequately and immediately to the situation.
This is for the first time when the international community is standing together and is connected through social media—sharing their own experiences and messages across the different parts of the world like never before. At very large scale, the social media is helping the people to inform about what pharmacies are open, how social distancing and self-quarantine is the only way to defeat the pandemic.
Moreover, the governments and public authorities are using the platforms extensively to release advisories so that people could adhere to them strictly. In short, it has proved to be a great tool for the people to enforce collective action by applying social pressure (#covidiots for instance). People are sharing useful information on several different issues such as how to remain engaged at home, quarantine parenting, etc.
As social media is like a double-edged sword, the sharing of misinformation, particularly fake news and rumours has been commonly observed. In Iran, rumour spread out through social media platforms that consumption of hand sanitiser can cure coronavirus. Consequently, hundreds of people died post consuming the sanitisers across the nation. This kind of extreme misinformation is actively harmful which has the potential to lead the society towards complete chaos.
For that matter, the Central government has written to top social media platforms and has directed them to control the spread of rumours, misinformation and fake news related to coronavirus. The government has also asked the companies to run awareness campaigns and promote true and authentic information about the virus.