Should Social Media Crack Down On Regional References To Covid Variants?

Should Social Media Crack Down On Regional References To Covid Variants?

GHAZIABAD, INDIA – MAY 25: A look inside the Covid-19 care center operated by the Rashtriya … [+] Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at Nehru Nagar on May 25, 2021 in Ghaziabad, India. (Photo by Sakib Ali / Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Hindustan Times via Getty Images

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in March found that former President Donald J. Trump’s social media tweets referring to “the Chinese virus” were likely to spur anti-Asian hashtags in days and years weeks followed. This, in turn, could have increased violence against Americans from Asia, who were mistakenly and unfortunately blamed for the spread of Covid-19.

Fearing a similar global backlash, the Indian government has sent notices to social media platforms ordering them to remove content related to an “Indian variant”. The letter, sent last Friday by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, was reportedly not made public but was seen by several news outlets.

New Delhi has proactively urged social media platforms to remove content that was critical to dealing with the novel coronavirus pandemic. India has become the epicenter of the virus in recent months and efforts to vaccinate the population have been slow. Fears remain, however, that the use of “Indian Variant” on social media could create confusion and even reinvigorate violence among Indians around the world.

Name the variants

India wasn’t alone when it came to being linked to a new strain of the virus, especially on social media. However, the World Health Organization announced earlier this year that it would formulate new names for the different variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coranavirus.

While terms such as “UK Variant”, “Brazil Variant” and “South African Variant” have been used by the mainstream media and even governments, there is a risk of attempting to associate a location with pollution – especially in social media. Experts have warned that it is incorrect to label a region or ethnicity / group with Covid.

“I don’t think any of them need to be identified by country, just that a variant has been identified and they could be assigned a number or letter. The variants naturally occur due to a virus mutation to prevent them from being country-specific just number them, “said Craig Laser, clinical associate professor at Arizona State University for the Master of Global Management in Healthcare Services program.

Why did the media label the virus by region?

“It is a natural human thing to want to blame something as devastating as the COVID 19 pandemic. Applying a geographic location to the name does just that,” added Mariea Snell, assistant director of the Online Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at Maryville University.

“Pointing the blame will not help lessen the spread of the virus or tackle the social stigma associated with it,” noted Snell. “Healthcare providers can continue to use medical terminology for the virus, and any variations that develop will reduce this problem. By sticking to neutral terms like these, you can avoid shame and guilt and draw the public to the real problem of ending this pandemic.” focus.”

Dissemination of misinformation

One major danger is that region labeling of a virus or variant can lead to the spread of misinformation, especially on social media, where context is often lost.

“The virus was quickly dubbed ‘the China flu’ and fingers were pointed at the country and its people,” said Laser. “Viruses have nothing to do with race, ethnicity or culture they come from. We don’t call Ebola ‘The African Bleeding Disease’.”

However, a tendency to mark using variants has been discovered. This only allowed additional misinformation to spread on the social platforms.

“Mutations and different variants of a virus are part of virology, not the country or culture,” explained Laser. “This issue of naming viruses based on where they came from or where variants can be seen is a form of ethnocentrism and the guilt that these countries, the people and the culture are ‘to blame’. This behavior is on the rise of violence against the Asia-Pacific islander community. “

This explains why India has tried to address the problem head on.

“Currently, India has had a worse daily death rate since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Kelly Carlson, PMHNP program director at the School of Nursing at Regis College.

Additionally, Carlson said that language is important for health professionals.

“The way that language, symbols, and words describe people in need of medical care makes a difference,” added Carlson. “The Indian government is calling on social media to remove the term” Indian variant “from their websites for fear of stigma. Instead, the New York Times used the term” Indian variant “. Moving words links this description the variant the variant not having a region or stigmatizing a group of people. The biased language continues to reproduce prejudice and inequalities. Words matter to health professionals. At Regis College we build the whole of the person preparing students to act as advocates for to serve and lead a more just and compassionate global society. “