On March 11th, the World Health Organization (WHO) made a big news by declaring COVID-19 a global Pandemic. However, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) pointed out that it is the 'Infodemic' that is adding to social chaos and threatening the health of citizens. So, what is an Infodemic? This is a combination of 'Information' and infectious disease 'Epidemic' or ‘Pandemic’, which refers to the rapid spread of false information or malicious rumors through the media. First used by David Roscov's article published in the Washington Post in 2003, the concept highlights its risk in that it occurs regardless of generation. Also, once spread, information is so fast that it is difficult to correct mistakes or falsehoods. Therefore, thorough fact checking is required when acquiring information now.
In March, CCTV footage revealed to the public that salt water was sprayed into the mouths and hands of believers on two occasions at the 'River of Grace' church located in Seongnam, Gyeonggi-do. This was aimed at preventing COVID-19 infections. Experts, however, say in unison that salt water does not help contain the virus at all. Lee Hee-young, co-chief of the COVID-19 emergency task force in Gyeonggi-do, also pointed out that the virus spread further due to incorrect medical information, saying that "they have been confirmed to be continuously spraying salt water without disinfecting the spray." In the church, six believers, including a pastor couple, were first diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 9th, followed by dozens of additional confirmed cases, leaving them as cases of mass infection. In other words, an Infodemic, which can even confuse the quarantine system, can be considered as dangerous as the infectious diseases themselves. In addition, fake news and scams that try to use fear to achieve political purposes or take economic benefits are rampant. So, what kind of response can be made to overcome this type of Infodemic? Currently, the Korean government has expressed its position to respond with strict regulations, judging that the false or misleading information could undermine public morale and threaten safety. And the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCC) is taking measures to delete false internet postings. Prosecutors also announced that they will proceed with an arrest investigation on those who spread persistent and malicious false information.
The reality is that despite all kinds of response efforts, it is difficult to verify all the information being disseminated out at the national level. Kwak Geum-joo, a psychology professor at Seoul National University stressed the importance of having the information users themselves able to verify the data. Now with the development of communication technology, a widespread Infodemic through the media can not only adversely affect the real life of individual people but also lead to the loss of society as a whole. Hence, the government's active response will have to be made to prevent another type of epidemic from spreading. It also requires a mature sense of citizenship in acquiring information, among other things.< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >