Digital space a new battleground in war against coronavirus

The Sars crisis 17 years ago did not have to deal with a multitude of online platforms to channel rumours and fake news

Two Facebook posts from different accounts falsely claimed that the Woodlands MRT station had to be shut down because of the virus. According to the writer, what was concerning was that in the absence of any update from the transport operator, fake n
Two Facebook posts from different accounts falsely claimed that the Woodlands MRT station had to be shut down because of the virus. According to the writer, what was concerning was that in the absence of any update from the transport operator, fake news grew legs unnecessarily and rapidly.PHOTO: GOV.SG

Concerned that friends in a WhatsApp chat group who live in the eastern parts of Singapore might be worried by online chatter telling people to avoid Eastpoint Mall because of the Wuhan virus, my friend advised us to ignore such rumours. With good intentions, he then forwarded the rumour to show us what we should ignore, thus inadvertently spreading the falsehood even more.

When Singapore confronted the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) crisis in 2003, it did not have to deal with the likes of Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and the vast digital universe of blogs, online influencers and citizen journalists.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2020, with the headline 'Digital space a new battleground in war against Wuhan virus'. Print Edition | Subscribe