South Africa: In a Post-Truth World, Science Is Under Threat - We Need an Inoculation Against Fake News

analysis

The epidemic-like rise in alarming pseudoscience and fake news trends and associated damaging outcomes raise a crucial question: Will the scientific process survive this onslaught or will anti-vaxxers and other conspiracy theorists eventually hold sway in the public domain?

Professor Faadiel Essop is Director of the Centre for Cardio-metabolic Research in Africa (CARMA) at Stellenbosch University.

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored" -- Aldous Huxley

The forwarded WhatsApp message on my phone boldly proclaimed that an autopsy in Russia had revealed that a radiation-exposed bacterium (and not the SARS-CoV-2 virus) is responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic and "causes human death by coagulation in the blood". The message triggered a tinge of despair as I realised that the plethora of similar, fake social media postings, with the widely reported (very rare) blood-clotting side-effects of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine will only further fuel the burgeoning anti-vaxxer lobby.

Of concern, the Centre for Countering Digital Hate reported that there are presently close to 58 million people following anti-vaccine groups on various social media platforms, with continued growth expected over the next few years. Moreover, a recent Ipsos survey reported a lukewarm response to vaccination in several countries....

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