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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Explaining Coronavirus Misinformation


FactCheck.org writers Jessica McDonald and Angelo Fichera were interviewed by a South Korean radio program about their work combating misinformation related to the new coronavirus.

Since China reported a mysterious cluster of pneumonia cases to the World Health Organization on Dec. 31, false and misleading information has sprung up online and on social media about the virus responsible for the disease. 

Some people have falsely suggested that the Chinese scientists were removed from a Canadian lab for shipping pathogens to Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak. Others have inaccurately claimed that Lysol and Clorox were aware of the virus before it emerged.

In a segment airing on “This Morning,” a live English-language radio program in South Korea, science writer Jessica McDonald explained that much of the misinformation results from confusion over the term “coronavirus,” which is not specific to the new virus, and can refer to a variety of viruses in the coronavirus family. The new virus temporarily goes by the name 2019 novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV. 

In the same interview, staff writer Angelo Fichera discussed the partnership FactCheck.org has with Facebook, and told how an emergency preparedness event conducted last autumn was distorted online to falsely suggest that the new coronavirus had been predicted. He wrote about that in his Jan. 29 article, “New Coronavirus Wasn’t ‘Predicted’ In Simulation.”

Listen to the full South Korean radio interview here. For more on our coronavirus coverage, see all of our articles here, including “Q&A on the Wuhan Coronavirus.”