Coronavirus: Scientists fight online war against misinformation about viruses

Mathieu Rebeaud posts almost daily. Photo: Damkayan Omega/Twitter

(Agence France-Presse) — With cat photos and sometimes devastating irony, Mr. Mathieu Rebeaud, a Swiss-based biochemistry researcher, has nearly tripled his Twitter since the coronavirus pandemic began.

With 14,000 followers, he posts messages explaining the latest scientific research almost every day, in particular to combat misinformation that spreads as quickly as the virus itself.

He is among a growing number of doctors, academics and institutions who have adapted and strengthened their scientific messages in recent weeks in hopes of countering what is called an infodemic – a torrent of information, including widespread false claims, which experts say they a serious threat to public health.

To get rid of the noise, it’s imperative to work quickly and maximize social media engagement to convey simple prevention messages to the public, researchers and specialists said.

“In the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, conspiracy theories provide complete, simple, seemingly rationalistic and foolproof explanations,” said Dr. Kinga Polynczuk-Alenius, a researcher from the University of Helsinki.

“This is in stark contrast to the available scientific knowledge – complex, fragmented, changeable and disputed – and to the actions of political decision-makers and state authorities, which seem haphazard and contradictory,” she added.

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