Jakarta – The Indonesian government has decided to wage a war against misinformation about China's deadly coronavirus on social media, as dozens of hoaxes about the new virus have been circulating online over the past two weeks.
The Communications and Information Ministry revealed on Monday that 54 hoaxes about the novel coronavirus – which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan – disseminated on social media platforms and messaging apps from Jan. 23 to Feb. 3.
According to the ministry, the hoaxes include false information that some patients in Indonesia had died after being infected by the coronavirus, despite the fact that the archipelago has yet to confirm any cases to date.
Other misinformation, such as the notion that drinking boiled garlic water can cure the coronavirus, had also spread on social media, prompting health authorities to reassert that no vaccines or medicines have been developed as of yet.
"Please don't immediately forward information that is still not verified yet," Communications and Information Minister Johnny G. Plate advised the public during a press conference on Monday.
The ministry had taken steps to fight against the spread of misinformation by blocking internet content that disseminated the hoaxes, Antara reported.
The ministry also regularly submits posts that counter hoaxes on its website kominfo.go.id.
Johnny said it was currently mulling over sending information to smartphone users through text messages in SMS blasts to alert the public about avoiding dubious sources.
The ministry's director general of information applications, Samuel Abrijani Pangerapan, said the government in cooperation with the police would take stern action against those who disseminated false information.
Previously, social media giant Facebook announced that it would fight against misinformation, saying in a blog post that it would take down content about the virus "with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities," Reuters reported.
Chinese authorities confirmed on Monday that the coronavirus had killed at least 360 in China – exceeding the death toll of 349 in the mainland from the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak. More than 16,400 people in more than 20 countries had been infected with the virus, AFP reported. (afr)