Fake News! WhatsApp message circulating that VI confirms case of COVID-19
A WhatsApp message stating that local radio station ZBVI 780 AM has announced that the Virgin Islands has recorded its first confirmed case of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been deemed as ‘fake news’.
The WhatsApp message reportedly began making the rounds today, March 20, 2020.
“The BVI has just announced/confirmed its first case of the virus via ZBVI,” the WhatsApp message read.
Minister for Health and Social Development did not respond to our request for a response on the WhatsApp message; however, ZBVI was quick to debunk the claim.
“I want to make it categorically clear, on behalf of the radio station, that ZBVI Radio has not made such an announcement…the situation is clear that the British Virgin Islands is still without a case of the coronavirus,” ZBVI presenter Zan Lewis stated on the radio airwaves.
False information can have damaging effects- Premier
Late February a rapidly circulating WhatsApp message had falsely stated that the VI had a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Noting that government had to take urgent measures to counteract the WhatsApp rumours about the presence of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the territory, Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) had said false information continues to spread faster than facts in the Virgin Islands.
Using the Opportunity to reiterate his Government's Computer Misuse and Cyber Crime (Amendment) Act of 2019 as necessary, the Premier said there is a possibility that the false messages and its content could destabilise the country economically and socially.
The Premier warned that people stop spreading false information and messages without facts and said that someone would be made an example soon.
Whilst unpopular amongst media watchdogs, section 14A of the Cybercrime act proposes criminalisation of anyone using a computer to send “grossly offensive” or “menacing” messages “for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience.”
The fines for that offence can reach as high as $500,000 and jail terms of up to 14 years.
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