Spreading (dis)trust in Fiji? Exploring COVID-19 misinformation on Facebook forums
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant challenges for the health system across the globe and fueled the surge of numerous rumours, hoaxes, and misinformation regarding outcomes, prevention and cure of the virus. The COVID-19 pandemic has also had severe political, economic and societal effects and affected media and communication systems in unprecedented ways. While traditional journalism has tried to adapt to the rapidly evolving situation, alternative news media on the internet have given the events an ideological spin. These voices have been criticised for furthering societal confusion and spreading potentially dangerous ‘fake news’ or conspiracy theories via social media and other online channels. The impact of the disease and the lack of information associated with it have allowed medical misinformation to rapidly surface and propagate on various social media platforms. Previous studies have highlighted a similar trend during recent public health emergencies, mainly the Ebola and Zika outbreaks. Such a phenomenon is alarming on both individual and public health levels to the extent that governments are realising the gravity and attempting to limit its effects. This article offers a unique perspective because it provides data-driven qualitative insights into Fijian Facebook posts related to infectious disease outbreaks. This study aims to understand public views and opinions on Fijian social media during the height of the pandemic in 2020 and to outline potential implications for health information.
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