During the social crisis caused by the pandemic, misinformation works at full capacity, as people are being more sensitive to panic, which causes their critical thinking level to significantly drop, shows an analysis signed by Felix Staicu, co-founder of the educative agency Intel4Patriam.

“During this social crisis caused by the pandemic, misinformation works at full capacity, as people are being more sensitive to panic, which causes their critical thinking level to significantly drop, while the filter through which information passes and based on which we decide whether a piece of information is true or false becomes more loose. We are assaulted by information on all channels, studies, statistics, statements of politicians, of the so-called physicians. At the same time, we are taken by assault on social media by such pieces of information distorted by a solid network of fake accounts and agitators, who use certain well-known psychological impulses that work on Romanians to launch accusations, spread fear and violence in the public space. They manipulate the algorithms of the social networks to increase their popularity very fast and to become increasingly more visible on Feed,” said the abovementioned source.

According to this analysis, in Romania, a topic that is “easy to manipulate with is religion,” which is very often exploited to “induce anxiety and manipulate various groups of the society into attacking each other.”

A new practice of the information war that exploded during this time is to send private messages directly to a person, which messages usually come from persons in the respective target’s agenda.

“These messages have a more powerful effect than the information that circulates freely through other social networks, because the messages that are directly addressed to the receiver, with the urge, in the end, to further distribute them, again, privately, to one’s own acquaintances. These message bet on peoples’ willingness to get involved and show solidarity, but in the end, they are causing more harm than good. These messages can include miraculous cures, such as using the hairdryer to kill the coronavirus or eating various foods or herbs for protection, and they can also include conspiracy theories, such as, for instance: the virus is a biological weapon created in the United States or China or Iran, video statements of so-called physicians, who also urge the people to take certain measures or “prove” that this virus is in fact nor real,” said the same source.

According to the same material, WhatsApp took measures against this phenomenon, by blocking the option to send messages to several persons at the same time, in order to limit the effects of misinformation. On the other hand, very many video clips circulate on YouTube or private channels, professionally edited and subtitled, as they are “meant to be spread as much as possible.”

Intel4Patriam pleads for using critical thinking while underscoring that a misinformation “starts in the title,” when it is “sensation and stirs feelings of hate, violence or division,” the content must probably be manipulated.

“We need to understand that misinformation is not necessarily a lie, but it can take many shapes, such as for instance it can be a combination of truth and lie, an exaggerated truth or something that was taken out of context. A very important step would be to check the sources and to know that if an article provides information without an official source then it has no value. The most important thing that we can all do is to place ourselves under a digital quarantine and refuse to further spread fake news. Only like this, we will be able to stop the excessive spreading of fake news and we can protect ourselves and the ones beside us from such manipulated information,” reads the same study. AGERPRES (RO – author: Irinela Visan, editor: Georgiana Tanasescu; EN – author: Cristina Zaharia, editor: Adina Panaitescu)