Protect yourself from the virus. And Fake News
This week isn’t the bearer of good news as shown on a map updated in real time (https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/01/23/coronavirus-outbreak-mapping-tool-649-em1-art1-dtd-health/) published by Johns Hopkins University, which this morning reports more than 720,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide and more than 152,000 people who have recovered. The Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering has created and is regularly updating an online dashboard to track the global spread of the coronavirus epidemic, which started in the city of Wuhan. The dashboard is regularly supplemented with data from WHO, CDC in Atlanta and other sources, and shows how the virus is spreading across the world. You can access it from your PC or directly from your mobile phone. The website of the renowned university, named after the 19th-century American philanthropist Johns Hopkins – an entrepreneur and abolitionist who believed in improving public health and education – also has an entire section dedicated to Covid-19 (https://hub.jhu.edu/novel-coronavirus-information), which gives updates on the research carried out by its laboratories and staff in collaboration with other research centres.
Consulting accredited centres, research sites, specialist journals and especially the WHO website (https://www.who.int/) or – for Italy – the Istituto Superiore di Sanità website (https://www.iss.it/) is a good way to avoid inaccuracies or even fake news, which create, often intentionally, panic and disinformation. In this regard, it is worth mentioning the creation of the first fact checking site entirely dedicated to the scientific verification of news concerning Covid-19. The National Welfare Institute for Italian Journalists has reported this in a publication sent to all its members. The site is called CoronaCheck (https://coronacheck.eurecom.fr/) and was created by a team of researchers from the EURECOM Data Science Department (France) and Cornell University (USA) in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, which we have just mentioned. Fact checking is carried out on the basis of official data from WHO, and the governments and ministries of health of Italy, Australia, Taiwan, China and Canada. Using the site, you can check if a particular statement is true or false. If you write in the search string that the number of cases in China is 1000, the answer is red: false statement. If, on the other hand, you write that the death rate in Italy is higher than in France, the answer is green: true statement. Like all algorithms, this system also has its limitations, but the good news is there are efforts to build models that protect us from fake news, a virtual “virus” that can do very serious damage.