'Hundreds dead' because of Covid-19 misinformation - BBC News

Published by BBC.COM

At least 800 people died around the world because of coronavirus-related misinformation in the first three months of this year, researchers say.

A study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene says about 5,800 people were admitted to hospital as a result of false information on social media.

Many died from drinking methanol or alcohol-based cleaning products.

They wrongly believed the products to be a cure for the virus.

Many of the victims had followed advice resembling credible medical information - such as eating large amounts of garlic or ingesting large quantities of vitamins - as a way of preventing infection, the study's authors say.

In the UK, laws to regulate online harm might be several years away.

The BBC's own investigations found links to assaults, arson and deaths as a result of misinformation about the virus, and spoke to doctors, experts and victims about their experiences.

Online rumours led to mob attacks in India and mass poisonings in Iran.

Telecommunications engineers have been threatened and attacked and phone masts have been set alight in the UK and other countries because of conspiracy theories that have been incubated and amplified online.

As vaccines emerge, there is the further threat that anti-vaccine campaigners will use the platform provided by social media to persuade people not to protect themselves.

Despite social media companies removing or labelling misleading information about vaccines, recent polling in the United States showed that 28% of Americans believe that Bill Gates wants to use vaccines to implant microchips in people.

The achievement of an effective coronavirus vaccine could be completely undermined by misinformation, doctors told the BBC's anti-disinformation team.