data snaX - october 3, 2014

The Ebola Virus: Fighting Misinformation

ebola snax site

After sweeping through Western Africa (and recently landing in Dallas), the Ebola virus has left thousands dead in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. While it’s true that Ebola is extremely dangerous with fatality rates over 50%, the fact remains that it is a difficult disease to catch and should be containable.

Unfortunately, the disease itself is not the only danger. Misinformation can be more deadly than the virus itself. Often this misinformation is on the ground, travelling person to person, but plenty makes it online.

Internet traffic related to Ebola is frequently misinformation, or articles about misinformation written for shock or entertainment. In fact, by traffic, around 20% of Ebola related news is essentially about nonsense. Some examples:

• Ebola patients are rising from the dead.
• The iPhone 6 has shipped with Ebola, infecting thousands.
• Ebola is an American bio-weapon.

While not all this traffic is necessarily bad and some might correct people’s misconceptions, much of it is simply an easy way to drive clicks, so be wary. And since web browsers who were less educated, young and male were the most likely to read these articles, perhaps you should double check with mom before following some of that advice you read online!

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