Ukraine Struggles To Debunk Fake Virus News
Faizan Hashmi 9 days ago Fri 27th March 2020 | 09:50 AM
Kiev, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 27th Mar, 2020 ) :The water service in Odessa, a port city in southern Ukraine, was suddenly overrun this week with calls from worried residents with a peculiar concern.
Were officials really planning to run an antiseptic solution through the city's taps instead of water? The calls were sparked by a message on social media claiming that: "Today, from 11pm until the morning, antiseptic will be distributed" in the water system.
The antiseptic supposedly included several different whiskies -- a brand for each district.
"Before the pandemic, we received seven or eight requests each day to verify information," said Alyona Romanyuk, the founder of a platform that debunks false stories online. "Now there are around 100." - 'Horror stories' - Among them, the Ukrainian security services denied rumours that authorities planned to douse the capital with disinfectant by helicopter.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky himself denied "horror stories" that 400,000 Ukrainians were infected.
"False information spreads much faster than the virus," he said on television last week.
According to official statistics, Ukraine has confirmed 156 cases of the virus and five deaths.
But the effects can be felt offline too. In February, 72 people were evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the centre of the coronavirus pandemic, and quarantined in Novi Sanzhary, a small town in central Ukraine.
Moscow has rejected the accusations.
Yet Ukraine says it has become a regular target of Russian misinformation since 2014, when Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula and threw its weight behind separatists in eastern Ukraine, a conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
- 'Hand of Russia' - From a variety of different genres of misinformation, Romanyuk the analyst singled out one designed to "spread panic." "And there you can clearly see the hand of Russia," she said.
Without citing Russia, Ukraine's security services said last month they had detected emails sent from abroad with the forged signature of the health ministry that spread false information on the coronavirus.
In a separate case, the security services arrested in the city of Dnipro "an agitator" who they said was ordered by Russia to distribute false information.