Misinformation and Human Rights Violation Causing Health Issues during COVID-19 Pandemic

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Every individual in this world has the right to health which is an inalienable right. The realization of the right to health depends on multiple factors and one of them is access to information regarding steps to be followed to remain safe and healthy.

The recent widespread COVID-19 disease has brought the world to a standstill. Everyone’s health is under threat and thus every government is taking measures to break the chain of infection. In such critical times, any misinformation regarding the pandemic may result in a lot of complications and life-threatening ramifications.

Right to Health

The right to health is enshrined under Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) wherein prevention of diseases is also included. World Health Organization (WHO) and even countries all across the globe have been encouraging people to observe ‘Social Distancing’. However, incorrect information about safety measures to stop COVID -19 would deter people from practising social distancing. It would deter them from following the disease prevention measures that would protect their health and avoid putting others at health risk.

Even the drafters of Article 12 of ICESCR included the right to seek information concerning health issues and the right to health as a human right has also been recognized under Article 25.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It must consider that false information undermines and denudes the effect of precautionary measures calibrated by medical experts. It further creates problems for the response to the disease.

False Information shared on Social Media

Social media such as TikTok has become the hub for spreading wrong information. The information is misguiding people to act against the preventive measures adopted to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In India, more than 30,000 clips are being circulated intending to spread wrong information. These videos targeted Muslims and discouraged them from exercising precautions. Further, false information such as that COVID-19 can stay in the air only for only 8 hours is also being circulated using Social Media platforms.

People are using Social Media to spread fake news against the initiative of “Social Distancing”. They are also circulating videos asking people not to follow the safety measures. Such information is incorrect and acts to the detriment of the people’s safety and the precautionary measures issued by the WHO and states.

People receiving false information regarding COVID-19 amounts to a violation of their right to stay healthy. An abundance of information makes it difficult for people to judge which information is true. This leads them to make wrong decisions compromising their health.

Intermediary applications that provide a platform for users to create and share short videos cannot always get away with the responsibility by the virtue that they are not creators of the content rather merely just a service provider. Therefore, during such critical times, every state must keep a stringent check on social media platforms. The government should order them to take down the wrong information found on the platform before it circulates and affects the health of people.

Government’s Advisory

Social Media Platforms should self-regulate their content to curb the spread of false information. The Indian Government has issued an advisory to the social media platforms such as YouTube, Tik Tok, Facebook and twitter, to curb the spread of disinformation on the virus. Further, the government has asked these platforms to take down incorrect information. They also asked them to start awareness campaigns and spread the correct information about the virus. All these steps taken by the government and the Social Media companies are pertinent to avoid any sort of panic.

Panic, at the time of this pandemic, will have a severe impact on people’s health. It would add up to the suffering of the people already affected by the virus. False information should be the last reason to cause panic in such desperate times. In the days to come, when everyone would be inside their houses, the use of the internet and social media platform will inevitably increase. Hence, strict regulations must be brought into effect so that people are not misled.

It is time that we all remain vigilant because our actions can act to the detriment of others’ health and any injudicious step that we take might result in the violation of others’ human right to stay healthy, to have a conducive environment to remain healthy and have access to correct information to lead a healthy life.

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