COVID-19 Op-ed

Covid-19 as Global Minsinfodemic: A Test for Southeast Asia Countries

Written by admin

Budi A. Rahmawan, S.H.,
Administrative Law
Faculty of Law Universitas Gadjah

The spread of the coronavirus disease has reached the
necessary epidemiological criteria for it to be declared a pandemic causing
countries to go on lockdown.
has infected more than 100.000 people in 100 countries (American Library
Association, 2020). Problem is when most governments of developing countries
do not provide access to information and finance science in such critical
conditions.Misinformation seems to be an unavoidable destination.What’s at
Since online users are desperately clicking
around to read information about the virus emergence, it mean more clicks
that lead algorithms to push to social media feed. The results? Dozens of
existing hoaxes are shared on the internet including inaccurate allegations, one
example is that some patients in Indonesia died instantly after being
affected by the pathogen or that inhaling boiling water as an antidote
(Palupi, 2020). Problems also arise when online posts made by interviewing
non-experts are published targeting audiences in
social media platforms who often relate COVID with Theology
(Fox, 2020) (Wolicki, 2020) (Considine, 2020) (sindonews, 2020).Definitely,
sharing is not caring anymore.Medical misinformation and disinformation are
two components of the information disorder in SEA and they require governmental
attention. Government measures against misinfodemics should be
properly initiated to keep information disorder from worsening. Even if
relatively few SEA countries are currently suffering from this crisis, strict
control by authorities’ bodies to contain hoaxes are necessary since weak
control could lead into public panic and jeopardize effort placed by the government
to control further spread of the virus.As SEA countries passed anti-fake law
news in recent years, a comprehensive test against such law
are in jeopardy. Taken for example Indonesia’s, who passed Information and
Electronics Transaction Law (Ministry of Law and Human Rights, 2008)
face barring dissemination of fake news being put to the test by the
spreading coronavirus. As these are considered fairly new laws, COVID 19 forced governments to
rapidly apply their information laws.RecommendationIn a
condition where the public needs to rely on verified information; local
media, central, and regional government should avoid misinfodemics and fake
news. Considering this pandemic scenario, there are several solutions. First,
it is important to have a coordinated response between various subjects, government
at different level in countries. Second, when countries desperately needed to
prepare health systems to meet unprecedented challenge countries can provide
temporary policy such as government site, fact checking, speakers’ reputation
for discussion, dedicated and accessible public handbook not only for COVID
19 but also for crisis situation and additional fake news tax as measures for
media to ensure publics will not panic. These are just a few examples from
countries that have been unfortunate enough to have been exposed to this
disease and provide very valuable lessons to pass on.Using
technology wisely could also be good addition if you know how to use it
properly. As technology is a double-edge sword, it is better to use
statistical data before release a statement in public areas. Although
SEA governments take various approaches, efforts will go to waste if the
public refuse to play their part in containing the further spread of
misinfodemics and continue drive public sphere.Fear spreads faster than the
pathogen itself. Sharing misinfodemics is as easy as click of a button, but
the potential threats posed by it cannot be underestimated. This is not a new
problem to SEA countries (Sonny & Surrusco, 2020) (Chong, 2020)
especially Indonesia (Salim, 2020). There has been avalanche of articles
exaggerating how severe COVID 19 diseases and hoax how to prevent the
disease, if we look carefully at the texts, one would find that they all
follow the same template. In the midst of a health crisis, societies are
often less stable and consequently more vulnerable to disinformation. As
misinfodemicss are likely to keep popping up, either online or offline, it
seems that every SEA countries affected by COVID 19 will suffer if their
internet gatekeepers as defense mechanism against misinfodemics are not yet
built.With those aforementioned, it is crucial that all concerned
stakeholders come to terms with the fact that some developing countries have
difficulties in handling such situations. In the absence of a vaccine, the
only way of slowing the spread of virus is social distancing. As political
theorist Yascha Mounk told. “distancing was just the only thing that worked
with 1918 Spanish flu pandemic (Naughton, 2020). And in the online world,
maybe we need something analogous such as bit of self-discipline. When one
person is not an expert, they should stop virus contamination by not sharing
false new.


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COVID19 refers to severe acute
respirator syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) originate from bats and could
give mild or severe strains. Symptons came vary from Fever 98%;
Dysopnea/Hypoxia (trouble breathing, low oxygen) 55%; Cough 76%; Muscle
pain/fatigue 44%; and big indicator for clinical diagnosis is the trouble
breathing and low oxygen. Although no vaccines has discovered, scienties
predict that it is possible that 54 millions people infected within 12
Experts in this situation refers to
including but not limited into scientific researcher who has experiences,
works for authorized public/private institution in this situation or at least
have stellar credentials to specifics issues such as doctors with specific
specialization on things related to
Including but not limited to Facebook,
Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, WeChat. Also refer to online platform for
inexpert people who open public discussion through massive internet
discussion invitation e.g. Zoom, Webex, Google Meets. Social media feeds are
tailored to the individual interest or community nearby measured by algorithm.
Low media literacy level, lack of
government internet gatekeepers, lack of fact-checking skills, Weak
implementation of legislation, unclear standard on legislation in SEA
countries, competition among news media outlets – lead to “clickbait”
Refer to Southeast
Misinformation plays in a pandemic
situation; the spread of false information, even with malicious intent;
worsens the impact of the pandemics by causing confusion, interfering with
efforts to contain its spread, or by producing knock-on-effects such as
increasing levels of hate crime or of burdening the health service with
people are convinced they have the virus when they
Refer to Singapore Protection from
Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act enacted in 2019; Indonesia Information
and Electronic Transaction Law enacted in 2008,; Vietnam Cybersecurity Law
enacted in 2018; and Malaysia who reversed its plan to enact a similar law
last year, but is still arresting citizens for their online
As aforementioned but excluding Indonesia Various as for example science, law and
policy (SCIPOL)
Refer to Singapore, South Korea, China
etc who handle the situation
Using Github Software development
platform, as one of the most cited open COVID 19
Refer to COVID19 Pandemic situation
that gives enormous health and economical impact for micro economic sectors
and potential investor and loan process are being halt.

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