The Covid-19 pandemic has seen an uptick in the spreading of fake news. As they relate to the virus many have been circulating fake news on the effects of the virus and the vaccines, instilling fear into the population. Today the government through the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) (Amendment) Bill, 2021 is now looking to increase the penalty for the offence of spreading or publishing false news. Minister of Education, Francis Fonseca spoke on this Bill.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education, Science and Technology: “In February of 2020 the World Health Organization described the rapid growth of COVID-19 related misinformation as an infodemic. An infodemic is defined as an overabundance of information some accurate and some not that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources or reliable guidance when they need it. The flood of information related to the COVID-19 pandemic presents a challenge in itself. In addition to accurate information there is disinformation and misinformation about possible cures or remedies for the COVID-19 virus, the origin of the disease, the details of particular cases, the efficacy of government policies and much more. Often internet users share misleading or inaccurate information inadvertently out of concern for their loved ones. In some cases bad actors do so to exploit societal fears and sow discord to interfere with responses to the ongoing health crisis or to profit from the crisis. Misinformation and disinformation represent a serious challenge in addressing a viral epidemic or other public health crises. Governments are right to take the threat of misinformation seriously. They should develop policies to effectively halt the spread of myths and to counter this deliberate misinformation campaign.”