We have heard a lot about fake news and misinformation over the last few years and in times of a global crisis on the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic, they can have a very real and dangerous implication for people.
Dr Pramod Regmi, Dr Shovita Dhakal Adhikari, Nirmal Aryal, Sharada P. Wasti and Professor Edwin van Teijlingen have conducted a study into how misinformation has impacted the marginalised communities of Nepalese workers returning home from India.
Over one million Nepali live in India where they work as labourers. Since India went into lockdown to tackle Covid-19, many of these people have been forced to return home to Nepal, where they have faced a range of challenges, including loss of their livelihood, social exclusion and discrimination. Fuelled by online content, these returning migrants and other marginalised groups in society have been labelled as responsible for spreading Covid-19 within the wider community. The study analysed content from various media sources, as well as gathering oral testimony from returning Nepalese laborers and stakeholders working with them.
The team found that rumours and misinformation had been proliferating across Nepalese online news portals and social media during the initial months of the lockdown, including false advice about how to prevent or cure Covid-19. The media propagated moral panic, which led to returnee migrants and Muslim populations experiencing fear, stigma, social exclusion and discrimination directed at them. Dalit, the poorest and most marginalised group in society, females and Muslims with people-facing jobs (e.g. shopkeepers) were disproportionately affected.
The conclusions showed the need for government, social media and news portals to develop strategies to dispel rumours and misinformation and which protect the socio-economically disadvantaged and/or minority populations in the country. You can read further information in this abstract.