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HOW ONE CORONAVIRUS MYTH WENT VIRAL

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HOW ONE CORONAVIRUS MYTH WENT VIRAL

Since coronavirus first appeared in Wuhan, China, my colleagues at NewsGuard—which rates the credibility of news and information sites—have been tracking all the websites in the US, UK, Italy, Germany, and France that have spread verifiably false claims about the coronavirus. We have so far identified 132 such sites, and the single most popular topic of misinformation has been about the virus’ origin. Sites have inaccurately tied the disease to 5G wireless technology, Bill Gates, and African migrants to Italy.

Until January, GreatGameIndia.com—an Indian website that bills itself as a “Journal on Geopolitics and International Relations”—was a microscopic blip on the internet, reaching just 30,000 to 50,000 visitors a month. It published numerous conspiracy theories about anything from Indian politics to the 2014 crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine. In contrast, CNN.com has more than 500 million page views a month, and a local newspaper such as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has more than 4 million monthly page views, according to web analytics firm SimilarWeb.

That changed on January 26, when Great Game India published an article about the origins of the novel coronavirus. The article was called “Coronavirus Bioweapon–How China Stole Coronavirus From Canada And Weaponized It.” The article claimed that two Chinese spies smuggled the virus from a lab in Winnipeg to a military lab in Wuhan, where the virus “leaked” out and began infecting people. (Great Game India did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

According to NewsWhip, a social media analytics platform, that first article in what would become a misinformation bandwagon received only 1,600 likes, shares, or comments on social media. But later that day, ZeroHedge reposted the article, word-for-word, adding a hint of speculation in the headline: “Did China Steal Coronavirus From Canada And Weaponize It?” The true answer, of course, is no, but the provocative headline begs readers to click and read—and share—the lengthy conspiracy theory, which reaches the conclusion that Chinese spies did steal the virus from the Canadian lab.

ZeroHedge started as a financial blog in 2009, created by a Bulgarian hedge fund analyst who was barred from the U.S. financial industry in 2008 for insider trading. The site is now best known for its pro-Kremlin commentary and false stories about Hunter Biden that spurred waves of right-wing misinformation during the impeachment hearings last fall. ZeroHedge currently ranks in the top 900 sites in the US, and its article about the Canada-China coronavirus myth garnered more than 24,500 social media engagements, more than 15 times what the original post on Great Game India received.

Also that day, ZeroHedge’s post caught the eye of someone at RedStateWatcher.com, which immediately reposted ZeroHedge’s story. The anonymously operated conservative site regularly reposts false content from other unreliable right-leaning sites.

Red State Watcher is among the 140 most popular sites in the US. Its Facebook page— @DonaldTrump4President—has more than four million followers (though NewsGuard did not find the coronavirus hoax article shared on this Facebook page). Because of cooperation between some of the internet’s most egregious misinformation sites, Great Game India’s post had reached exponentially more readers than any story on that site could do on its own.

The falsehood had gone viral before Canadian authorities became aware of it and were able to disprove it. While two Chinese scientists were in fact escorted from the Winnipeg lab last July, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada later told the CBC that they were asked to leave due to an “administrative manner,” described by Canadian police as a “policy breach” that posed no danger to public safety. The spokesperson made clear that any claim that the Chinese scientists were spies—or that their work had to do with coronavirus—is “misinformation.”

Soon the false story that originated on an obscure website in India began to appear on platforms such as Reddit and on many Facebook and Twitter feeds. Now, weeks after the original post, this story has appeared in the social media feeds of countless Americans. So long as social media platforms continue to fail to warn their users about the nature of sites promoting misinformation, it will remain easy for even a small group of unreliable sites to hijack social media to amplify misinformation.

In addition to the false story about the virus’s origin, NewsGuard has also identified numerous “news” sites promoting false cures to the coronavirus, including some that are themselves potentially fatal, including bleach and colloidal silver.

Recent polling from Pew Research Center shows that nearly 70 percent of Americans say misinformation “greatly impacts Americans’ confidence in government institutions.” During an unprecedented global pandemic, we rely on public health institutions more than ever. Helping readers understand which sites they can trust—and which to regard with caution—is now a crucial matter of public health.

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NUJ worries that it has become soft targed for Govt, protesters

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NUJ worries that it has become soft targed for Govt, protesters

The Nigeria Union of journalists (NUJ) has expressed concern that the Union as journalists and media organisations have become soft targets of attack by both Government and even protesters.
This was contained in a statement issued by the National President of the Union Chris Isiguzor in Abuja on Monday where he condemned the unending assault on the Media.
He said, “The decision by industry regulator, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to penalise Arise Television, Channels Television and AIT over what it alleges as unprofessional coverage of the #EndSARS protests across the country further exposes the nation’s anti-democratic tendencies.
“Rather than trying to muzzle the media, we suggest that the NBC should applaud media coverage of the protests and the professionalism of Journalists who despite the enormous risks to their lives ensured a comprehensive coverage of the protests.”
He observed that despite all its perceived short comings, the media remains the most viable tool for good governance and democracy and should be jealously guarded and protected.
“Actions like this only bring back unpleasant memories of the long tenure of Military rule and the established culture of intolerance against the media when Nigeria recorded her most grievous crimes against the industry. “Sadly, we are once more witnessing actions that seek to undermine the profession by both State and non-State actors.”
He called for an end to the open contempt and disrespect for the Media by NBC.
The president noted that the fines imposed on the media houses are unnecessary, discriminatory and an attempt to discourage a free, independent media, hence it should be withdrawn immediately.

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#Extortion of FCT motorists: AMAC boss tenders apology to residents

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#Extortion of FCT motorists: AMAC boss tenders apology to residents

Chairman Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) Abdullahi Candido, has tendered unreserved apology to residents of the Council over the highhandedness of its Taskforce charged with the responsibility of enforcing compliance with safe road usage by motorists.
Candido tendered the apology yesterday to residents at a stakeholders Town Hall meeting convened by the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) on Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) Taskforce/Marshall: Security Implications and Challenges. 
The town hall meeting was convened to brainstorm on the concerns by members of the public, particularly motorists, over the high-handedness, extortion and harassment by the taskforce.
AMAC authorities had severally alleged that not all revenue collectors are genuine, however, the NUJ felt there was need to critically examine the character of the Taskforce and sift the wheat from the chaff.
Continuing AMAC chairman pointed out that truely, AMAC task force has over reached its bound with the way it went about its task of ensuring safe road usage by motorists.”Government comes Government goes, what is most important is the policy. Definitely some policies may be harsh not because of the law but because of the actors and implementors.”He said he was a victim of such embarrassment by officials of the task force even as Chairman of the Council, therefore he could connect with the concerns of the residents, stakeholders in the Municipal.He told the gathering that the complaints are not strange to him because he was accosted by the marshal while on the road and embarrassed for no just cause but endured it before revealing his identity to the officials.”I have encountered it myself, I have received series of complaints, I have had reasons to drive to places from where I received complaints to intervene.”The task force has gone to the extreme. The task force did what it was not supposed to do. Sincerely on this note, we are not military dictators, we are civilians , I wish to on behalf of the management of the Abuja Municipal Area Council apologise for the hardhship we have imposed on the people.”Chairman of AMAC said.
He announced that the management of AMAC has disbanded the taskforce and replaced them with the AMAC Marshall who will undergo one month training to provide them with the requisite skills to engage motorists with respect while discharging their duty.According to him: “We are very sorry and sincerely sorry.  Sorry is not enough, we took serious step and measure to ensure the sorry takes effect.”Sometime we see many of these people wearing some form of identity. Some are fake, not all are fake, just like the ENDSARS.”These bad ones we are expunging and disbanding them.”You will never again be confronted with any fake AMAC task force. You will be engaging only with our Marshalls,” Candido stated.

He told Abuja residents to arrest any fake AMAC marshal or task force not on uniform who conducts himself outside civil means to effect compliance to safe road usage.
Chairman of the Council, Comrade Emmanuel Ogbeche had in his remark said the Council as partner in the development of the FCT had to bring to the front burner nagging issues among the residents for an improved FCT.Ogbeche said the move by the Council is in accordance with the agenda setting of the fourth estate of the realm, thus the town hall meeting was meant to bring the political leadership and the citizens together to discuss and find a solution to the challenge for a harmonious AMAC and the federal capital city.He maintained that the town hall meeting was not to witchunt but a meeting for social re-engineering of the measures put in place for compliance by motorists to extant rules governing safe parking, and other guide to safe roads usage by motorists.
Olakunle Awoniyi who narrates his experience on two separate ocassions on the Lugbe Axis, told the Chairman, that he heard a strange sound while driving, and as it is usual gor fear of possible fault on his car, he pulled over to check.He said he was still in his car when men of the AMAC task force pounced on him and arrested him for parking by the road side.

He said they were not ready to listen to him to know the reason he had to stop as it took the intervention of the NUJ before his vehicke was released to him.

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Poly lecturer in dire need of 14M for Kidney surgery

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Poly lecturer in dire need of 14M for Kidney surgery

Dean of School of Engineering of the Federal Polytechnic Bida, Engr. Mohammad Maali(MNSE) is appealling to Nigerians to assist Dr. (Engr)Ahmed Saba (MNSE) with funds to enable him get a kidney transplant surgery worth fourteen million naira(N14).

A Chief Lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Federal Polytechnic Bida, Dr. Saba, hails from Kutigi in Lavun Local Government Area of Niger State.
He has been battling for his life following a diagnosis of advanced kidney disease.

According to the School of Engineering Dean, the Lecturer has “on his own spent over four million naira(N4M) and another fourteen million naira(N14M) is requested for his kidney transplant”.

The following details were provided for any assistance for him from government, organizations and Nigerians.

“Engr. Mrs Alfa Amina Yawo (Ecobank 2111308795).
For more information Contact: 08036928124

Surely, every selfless donation in the cause of saving life shall enjoy the blessings of Almighty God.

Engr. Dodo Almustapha
Department of Electrical Engineering
The Federal Polytechnic, Bida.

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