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Tánaiste Simon Coveney
Tánaiste Simon Coveney
Image: Sam Boal via

'Be careful where you get your info': Coveney warns public of Covid-19 misinformation

This comes as the UN chief issued a warning that the world faces a misinformation epidemic about Covid-19.
Apr 18th 2020, 12:31 PM 36,510 71

TANAISTE AND Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has warned the public to be careful of where they get information on Covid-19 and to “take your lead” from “good mainstream media”. 

His comments come after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier this week warned that the world is facing “a dangerous epidemic of misinformation” about Covid-19.

On Tuesday, Guterres announced a UN campaign to flood the internet with facts and science to counter what he called “a poison” that is putting lives at risk.

The UN chief decried what he described as a global “misinfo-demic” that is spreading harmful health advice, “snake-oil solutions”, falsehoods, and wild conspiracy theories.

Guterres urged social media organisations to do more to counter the misinformation and to “root out hate and harmful assertions about Covid-19″.

“Hatred is going viral, stigmatising and vilifying people and groups,” he said in a video statement.

Mutual respect and upholding human rights must be our compass in navigating this crisis.

The UN chief said people around the world “are scared” and want to know what to do and where to turn for advice, and they need science.

In a tweet this morning, Coveney said that the “last few days saw a lot of false info on social media”. 

Coveney outlined numerous examples of the misinformation that has circulated in recent days, including a “fake CMO letter”. 

A message had been circulating around WhatsApp earlier this week purporting to show a letter claiming to be signed by Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan stating that all of Ireland’s pubs are to remain shut until 1 September at the earliest. subsequently reported that the letter was, in fact, false

In his tweet, Coveney said: “Please be careful where you get your info on #Covid19 – we have good mainstream media, take your lead from them!”

Tweet by @Simon Coveney Source: Simon Coveney/Twitter

Meanwhile, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric earlier this week stressed the importance of accurate information.

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He said the United Nations “will be in touch with various social media companies”, adding that quite a few of them are actively trying to root out disinformation and suspending accounts of people pushing out information “that is plain wrong and dangerous”.

Dujarric said the UN recognises the delicate balance between free speech and misinformation, saying “that’s a balancing act that is played out every day around the world even in the most free democracies”.

“The secretary-general is not going to be the one to decide,” Dujarric said.

“What we are doing is we will push out scientifically-based information, information that will help us as a global community fight the virus,” he said. “Social media companies, news organisations are making those decisions all the time, but I think it is important that we all do what we can to fight the spread of dangerous misinformation on fighting the virus.”

The secretary-general saluted “journalists and others fact-checking the mountain of misleading stories and social media posts”.

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email:  

Includes reporting by Press Association's coronavirus newsletter cuts through the misinformation and noise with the clear facts you need to make informed choices. Sign up here

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