During the current pandemic, misleading information has been spreading along with the pathogen. The availability of different social media outlets and access-enabling tools have amplified their dispersion. In Pakistan, the historical legacy of colonial subjugation contributes to a feeling of mistrust towards modernity and its epistemic expressions in the praxis of science and medicine. This burden of the past creates a conducive environment for the reception of ideas that do not require scientific verifiability or qualifies as a safe medical practice. There is, thus, a cascade of misinformation or contradictory statements on social media which is creating hurdles in implementing effective public-health interventions due to public disinclination to support them. Whilst foregrounding the historical contingency for the receptivity of such information, our project aims to delineate the contours of debates about science, rationality, and medicine that continues to inform the public debate on such a critical issue as Covid-19. In this project, we will study the content of Pakistan-based Covid-19-related tweets with a specific focus on political content, health-related content, risk framing, and rumors. Our argument is that by recognizing the historical imperative of responses to modern science and medicine, characterizations of information/misinformation on social media can be more effectively understood. In other words, it is not simply important to document different types of rumors and misinformation circulating on social media but to explore the reasons for which they come into circulation in the first instance and their resonance in a particular political context.
Ali Usman Qasmi
Associate Professor, Lahore University of Management Sciences
Associate Professor, University of the Punjab