The Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council is urging the public to be wary of the dangers of ‘fake news’ and is urging people to use reputable media to source information on Covid-19.
Cllr Andrew McGuinness made his appeal as the country enters a new lockdown phase to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Hundreds of nursing home staff and residents will take part in the Covid-19 vaccination programme in Kilkenny over the coming weeks.
However there are concerns from some health officials and public representatives that ‘fake news’ circulating on social media might have a negative impact on the uptake of the vaccine and ‘cloud people’s judgements’.
The Cathaoirleach said that he is being ‘trolled’ on a daily basis by ‘a very small minority of people’
“Many people come to my social media page to spin conspiracy theories, anti-mask and anti-vaccine agendas and argue with people, often in a very forceful and insulting way,” he said.
“One of the most dangerous trends I have seen during the pandemic is the spread of fake news on social media encouraging people to ignore health advice. Ridiculous conspiracy theories, Facebook doctors and social media experts claiming that there is some sort of master plan or ulterior motive to all of this are just nonsense and I would urge people not to listen to it.”
The Fianna Fáil councillor said that he had been subjected to online bullying and intimidation over advocating that people adhere to public health advice.
“I’ve spotted groups of anti-lockdown campaigners, using fake pages to intimidate people online and spread fake news, using terms like ‘sheep’ to describe those of us that stick to the public health advice,” he said. “I’ve been sent abusive and threatening private messages, as has my partner. I simply block those people and keep going.
“My worry is that the fake news they try to spread, the ‘Facebook doctors’ and unknown so-called medical experts that post YouTube videos with various conspiracy theories, can cloud people’s judgement at a time when our mood may be low, and encourage people to let their guard down,” he added. “This is highly dangerous and people that try to do that are utterly irresponsible.”
The Cathaoirleach also urged people to rely on established news sources for information.
“I want to urge everyone to stick to the facts and take their information from official sources. We are lucky in Kilkenny with great local media that give the relevant information daily and I’ll continue to post factual information that people need.
“Please don’t give any oxygen to fake news, stick to the official public health advice and stay safe,” he appealed. “If we all do our bit we will get out of this a lot quicker,” he said, adding that he wanted to thank the people of Kilkenny for their support in recent months.
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