Three southern states, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu have cautioned people against spreading fake news on the deadly coronavirus and have warned of strict action against the peddlers of such news on social media.
Kerala Police have arrested three persons for spreading fake news about the virus on social media. State Health Minister KK Shailaja said strict action would be taken against those sharing misleading information or revealing the identity of patients under observation as suspected cases. The coastal state confirmed two positive cases. These two patients, who had returned from China, have been kept in isolation wards and are under medical observation.
Similarly, the health department in another southern Indian state Tamil Nadu has asked the public not to circulate fake news about the epidemic as it might lead to widespread panic. The announcement comes against the backdrop of fake news about the spread of the virus in the state, the department said. One suspected case has been reported in the state's Trichy district.
In Karnataka, too, a district health official said a WhatsApp group was engaging in spreading misinformation about the virus in the state: “Today's breaking news now...19 ppl r affected with CORONA VIRUS only in WILSON GARDEN Surrounding areas ...pls friends kindly update it to family and friends too...all of us take care...", the message read.
The information being spread there was absolutely false, the official told online news portal the News Minute. Nearly, 20 people who returned to Karnataka’s Bengaluru from China have tested negative.
Meanwhile, social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter, which drew flak for serving as an unregulated medium for the spread of fake news during the 2016 presidential elections in the United States, have stated they would contain the spread of fake news.
Similarly, Facebook-owned Instagram has started blocking suspected hashtags linked to the coronavirus, the parent company said.
The deadly coronavirus broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The global epidemic has already affected over 17,000 people with 360 deaths in China.
India has evacuated over 600 of its citizens from Wuhan in the Chinese province of Hubei. Other countries such as Canada, the United States, Sri Lanka, and Germany have also reported confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The World Health Organisation has recently declared a global health emergency.