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If fighting the spread of misinformation becomes difficult during elections, so does a global pandemic. Source: Getty.
If fighting the spread of misinformation becomes difficult during elections, so does a global pandemic. Source: Getty.

Songs, misinformation and memes: the coronavirus is just as viral on the Internet

In the midst of a global health crisis, the virus finds its way through songs, videos, and memes.

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The word viral has returned to the public eye with the Internet. However, it evokes a meaning we are currently seeing with the spread of the coronavirus as a global health issue.

The first case of COVID-19 was reported just over three months ago in China. Before that, most of the population had never heard the term "coronavirus." Now the word has spread around the world, causing fear, rumors, killing thousands of people, and at the same time, it has become not only a topic of global conversation, but also a topic for profit on the Internet.

Viral disinformation vs. responsible citizenship

Since the virus can be cured by smoking, smearing urine or covering your face with a bag, the number of rumors due to fear of exposure to the disease has doubled on social networks over the course of the days.

In a post by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, he explains that his company has been working closely with health authorities to coordinate how to respond to the amount of content generated by the discussion. As part of that effort, any search that occurs on the coronavirus, Facebook opens a pop-up window that directs users to the World Health Organization (WHO) or local health authorities for verified information.

Zuckerberg says that while it is important for everyone to be able to share their experiences, Facebook is eliminating false claims and conspiracy theories. He is also blocking ads that exploit the situation, for example, by claiming that his product can cure disease. However, there are many private groups on the social network that are not removed and actively encourage the spread of fake material.

If fighting the spread of misinformation becomes difficult during elections, so does a global pandemic, as Facebook encourages its users to retreat to the more private corners of their empire. For example, what is being said about the coronavirus within WhatsApp groups?

A year ago, Mark Zuckerberg wrote another post entitled "A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking," in which he described his plans to expand the use of end-to-end encryption at the heart of WhatsApp and other Facebook services.

However, as he predicts in his publication and the future of communication shifts increasingly "to private, encrypted services where people can be sure that what they say to each other is kept secure," then it will be much harder to stop dangerous rumors from spreading.

For one of The Verge's editors, Russell Brandom, in addition to washing his or her hands, the important thing is for citizens to understand that rumors should not be promoted through chat but rather by sharing information from official bodies "because otherwise you can hurt others or create widespread paranoia."

Popular culture, songs on Spotify and profits everywhere

The ease of producing a song today means that today's artists can react quickly to the production of pieces that represent current events and, with the spread of the coronavirus, many are doing exactly that: creating.

As of this March, over 65 songs are available on Spotify that includes the word "coronavirus" in the title and another seven with "covid19" or "covid-19". Most of these songs have relatively low playback and few have listened to them. 

However, the most popular coronavirus song these days is "La Cumbia Del Coronavirus" by Mister Cumbia, an American singer who writes lyrics for the Mexican market, has managed to reach 100,000 people by inviting listeners to wash their hands of it. Spotify pays whoever has the rights to a song between $0.003 and $0.008 per play, which means that Mister Cumbia, possibly has received between $300 and $800 in revenue.

Venezuelan comedian Ramses Hatem is another person who has produced songs about the disease. Unlike Mr. Cumbia, Hatem uses the coronavirus trend to reflect, in a comedic tone, on how toxic relationships can be, yet his "cORoNAviRUs" only has about 1,600 plays on Spotify.

For his part, the comedian from Seville, Zorman, does not do cumbia but through the electronics of the 90s, he creates a song a little more sarcastic than Mister Cumbia, ironizing about the rumors and false news as well as the prejudices that have become widespread against the Chinese community since the outbreak of the disease in Wuhan. Zorman is not on Spotify but his Youtube video has over 1.5 million views. Youtube has a payout ratio that varies by views and quality, however, there is an average of $18 per 1,000 views.

The tendency to the coronavirus is not only viral on the internet, its undermining in reality, beyond the disease, generates questions that indicate directly in the criticism: are memes the best constructors of criticism in the face of disinformation? Is censorship the best format for disinformation? What is the civil responsibility in the face of a global pandemic?

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