In the second half of March, people were actively being “lured” into cybercrimes. There were urban myths, fake local and international news circulating in social media. In this period, it became clear that no new pandemic was being spread from China, and COVID-19 was not caused by sex with bats.
A 70-year-old man from Gyumri did not die from Coronavirus
On March 26, politik.am website wrote that a man over 70 died in Gyumri. “Based on the initial symptoms,” he was infected with Coronavirus. A few hours after the publication, the website posted a refutation. Before that, the press secretary of the Ministry of Health refuted the news.
According to the comments to Alina Nikoghosyan’s status, “the Gyumri pathology lab representatives have talked to tert.am, clarifying that “they don’t know anything for sure about the man being infected with Coronavirus – it’s just rumors.” Nikoghosyan has responded to Boris Murazi, the editor-in-chief of politik.am, by writing, “Basically, you have turned into “rumor disseminators.”
The Catholicos has not left Armenia
On March 17, Mother See refuted the already-removed story of CivilNet.am, stating that the Catholicos of All Armenians had left the country, due to the existing situation. Fr. Vahram Melikyan, the Director of Information Services, clarified that the info was based on a photo provided to the media entity. The information was removed but the photo can be seen in the YouTube video.
Fr. Vahram informed that the Catholicos is at Mother See “where he has been discussing with the bishops the possible proportionate responses to the situation.
There is no free money on the internet
In the second half of March, media expert Samvel Martirosyan covered cybercrimes a few times in his Facebook page. In one case, he informed about “fake giveaway frauds by “Heno”, “Sirusho” and other celebrities,” in another case he warned about the “gifts” distributed on behalf of Serj Tankian.” He even posted a video message – “stay away from online fraud” – and stated “Hey folks, you cannot win or inherit any money on the internet – stop believing in money miracles.”
Media.am covered the cybercrime with the use of Kim Kardashian’s photo, suggesting a few tips to avoid online fraud.
The incorrect translation was removed from 1lurer.am
On March 26, 1lurer.am of Public TV posted a story titled Self-Isolation is useless in fighting the Epidemic: WHO. A few minutes later, they had to remove the post, due to the incorrect translation.
It turns out that the World Health Organization’s Director-General had not said that self-isolation was useless. Instead, he had said that staying at home and shutting down population movement “will not extinguish epidemics on their own.” Their goal is buying time and reducing the pressure on health systems.
Ani Grigoryan, the editor-in-chief of Fact Investigation Platform, wrote about it in a Facebook post, attracting the attention of the website and the commandant. The site removed the info, following the discussions of the status comments.
Hantavirus is not a beginning of a new pandemic
The Twitter post of Chinese media on a death of a hantavirus-positive person caused the Armenian media to spread sensational news, writing that “while the world has been fighting Coronavirus, a new virus in Yunnan Province, China, has led to a death of one person.”
The online media called it a “new” virus (although it had been around for over 70 years,) using panic-provoking and misleading headlines in their stories. Media.am covered [AM] this issue, revealing that there is no need to panic – the virus is not a new one and will not turn into a pandemic because its human-to-human spread is very rare.
Coronavirus is not caused by sex with bats
On March 28, Hraparak.am wrote that the Chinese authorities had confirmed the identity of the Coronavirus patient zero who was believed to have contracted the disease after having sex with bats. The story also contained the warning of Chinese officials to temporarily abstain from having sexual contact with any animals. The info source was Worldnewsdailyreport.com, a fun website posting satiric stories.
You can easily see the heading World News Daily Report. Where Facts don’t matter at the top of the home page. The About us sector of the website also includes an ironic text. It states that the site is “dedicated on covering biblical archeology news and other mysteries around the Globe.” Moreover, it is said at the bottom of the page that “WNDR assumes all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles.”
Polls of unknown origin
Fact Investigation Platform revealed that the poll on Artsakh elections (presented on March 17 by Haylur newscast of the 5th channel) had not been conducted by “a famous international sociological company” or “a famous Russian company” but by the headquarters of one of the parties.
Fip.am did not find the Twitter pages CIS Incrimination and Armenian Chronicles. Instead, channels with similar names were discovered at Telegram. The questionnaire mentioned in the TV story, as well as the poll results were found in Armenian Chronicles. The questionnaire clearly says that the poll is conducted by the headquarters of a political party, without mentioning it, in order not to affect the results.
Fake news on Facebook
In the second half of March, fake and real Facebook users, pages and stolen accounts spread a number of misleading and panic-provoking info. Let’s mention a few of them:
- There was a fake info on Coronavirus outbreak and death cases in the Armenian armed forces. The info was disseminated from the pages of “ordinary users”, as well as a page with the photo of the Ministry of Defense press secretary. Infocheck.am has put together all those pieces of fake info in one place.
- Urban myths became the next wide-spread info, stating that some people visit you under the guise of disinfecting your house, sedating and robbing you instead. This info has been mainly spread from Russian sources.
- A message by Viber or other messenger, stating that you are suspected of being infected with Coronavirus, and “official persons” will visit you soon. It turns out that nobody will visit you because this is a non-official and fake message of unknown origin.
- It turns out the “already existing affordable drug” against Coronavirus does not really cure this disease. And Vahan Artsruni, a member of the Medical University Trustees Council, has stated in his status that there is no vaccine against COVID-19.