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Czech Interior Ministry centre refutes most frequent disinformation about COVID-19 online

17.4.2020 12:43
--ilustrační foto--
--ilustrační foto--

Disinformation about COVID-19 making the rounds of the Czech Internet, whether through chain e-mails, social media or websites, is associating the novel coronavirus with migration or with 5G mobile networks, offering unsubstantiated alternative treatment methods for the disease, or speculating that the vaccines against infection by the novel coronavirus that are being developed will be harmful. The Centre against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats (CTHH) of the Czech Interior Ministry has reported on the disinformation through its own website and has confronted the 10 most frequent manipulations of the truth with facts.

The CTHH says that a great deal of disinformation, fabulation and manipulation is appearing in the Czech Republic in an attempt to exploit the pandemic "in accordance with the interests of the broadest possible range of actors". CTHH says disinformation is being spread through chain e-mails, the "quasi-media scene" and social media.

On the basis of a decision by Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) the centre has expanded its remit, which customarily focuses on the area of internal security, to include disinformation about the pandemic. According to the CTHH, the disinformation is, for example, alleging that the European Union is incapable of effectively responding to the pandemic, allegations that are meant to "prove" the EU is harmful and unnecessary.

The centre points out that in reality, the EU has just limited powers when it comes to the area of health care and internal security. "However, within its areas of competence, the EU is active in addressing this crisis. It has created a rescue fund from which the Czech Republic can take advantage of approximately CZK 30 billion [EUR 1.1 billion] to aid small and medium enterprises, stabilize health care or support the labor market," the centre reports.

The CTHH also mentions unsubstantiated claims by Czech-language disinformation websites that the Czech Government and Czech media are intentionally overwhelming the public with information about the novel coronavirus in order to distract from what these websites call "the real danger" to society, which in their view is immigration. Among the other pieces of disinformation are unsubstantiated claims that the novel coronavirus was created as a biological weapon.

"According to the currently available information, this virus was not created in a laboratory or artificially, which several leading research institutions and laboratories immediately agreed upon," the CTHH said. In its overview, the centre also points to the various kinds of unsubstantiated advice that are being shared for how to avoid catching the novel coronavirus, or unsubstantiated advice that, on the other hand, warns people about materials that allegedly would make one more likely to catch the disease or that will worsen the course of it.

"Using alcohol, garlic, smoking tobacco, drinking hot water, washing with chlorine solution, using nose drops or antibiotics are not effective in combating coronavirus," the centre warns. The CTHH recommends following credible, verified sources of information and doctors' advice with respect to how to avoid contracting the virus.

The centre has also rejected the unsubstantiated allegations that foreign states are intentionally confiscating protective gear that is meant to be sent to the Czech Republic. "In the situations that have been reported on by the media it has been proven that there was no intention to do this and that they managed to be constructively addressed through the cooperation of the official bodies of the states concerned," says the CTHH.

The reiteration of false allegations about the planned closure of some areas or towns in the Czech Republic, as well as false allegations of the USA moving its military units to Europe, are also pointed out by the centre. Another kind of disinformation concerns alleged plans for vaccination during which citizens are allegedly going to be injected with harmful substances or nanochips, as well as unsubstantiated allegations that the pandemic is just being faked in order to cause panic, gain control over populations through fear, and cover up other problems.

The centre is also refuting unsubstantiated allegations of an association between the novel coronavirus and the introduction of 5G networks. "There is no scientific evidence of the alleged connection between the operation of 5G networks and the rise of the COVID-19 disease," the CTHH writes in its refutation.

The CTHH was created at the beginning of 2017 in response to terrorist attacks around Europe and based on the findings of an audit of Czech national security. It focuses on threats in the area of terrorism, attacks on soft targets, migration, extremism, mass events or the security aspects of disinformation campaigns.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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