Misleading bat soup videos, vastly inflated death tolls, quack remedies and vaccine conspiracies a global deluge of misinformation is compounding public fears about China’s new coronavirus and stoking racial stereotypes.

Phoebe, a 40-year-old Hong Kong doctor, has been dismayed by some of the messages cropping up in her family Whatsapp group in recent days.

“I’ve seen information […] telling people to use a hairdryer to disinfect your face and hands, or drink 60-degree hot water to keep healthy,” she said.

“I also saw a post shared in Facebook groups telling people to drink Dettol,” she added, referencing a household disinfectant.

As a health expert, she knew none of these methods would work — and could, in fact, be dangerous — so she set about warning her family.

But how many more messages like that are out there?

Researchers say the internet and chat apps are awash in them. Ever since the emergence of the virus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan became public at the start of January, misinformation has stalked its spread.

Cristina Tardaguila, from the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, says more than 50 fact-checking organisations in 30 countries have been dealing with “three waves” of misinformation.

“One regarding the origins of the virus; one about a fake patent, and a third about how to prevent it/cure it,”

She said

Some of the misinformation has tapped into prejudices towards Chinese eating habits, or has been used to fuel racist stereotypes.

One video which went especially viral was a video of a woman tucking into bat soup.

The footage, which was also picked up by western tabloid media outlets, was hailed as proof that China’s appetite for exotic animals had caused the crisis.

But it emerged that the video was shot in 2016 on the Pacific island of Palau by a Chinese travel blogger — a fact that few of the media outlets which ran the footage bothered to either check or update once the reality became known.

While China’s culinary tradition encompasses a vast array of ingredients that many elsewhere may turn their noses up at — and there are legitimate concerns over the country’s hygiene standards and live animal markets — bat is not commonly consumed.

Australia has seen multiple false claims that tap into prejudice towards its sizable Chinese community.

On Monday, Duncan Pegg, a lawmaker for Brisbane, alerted constituents to a fake Department of Health press release warning against travel to suburbs with high concentrations of Chinese Australians.

“To have false information spread by racist morons creates a sense of fear and anxiety,” he said.

The far-right corners of the internet have also seized on the outbreak.

One early hoax widely spread alleged a vaccine against the virus had already been patented in 2015.

But it emerged that the video was shot in 2016 on the Pacific island of Palau by a Chinese travel blogger — a fact that few of the media outlets which ran the footage bothered to either check or update once the reality became known.

While China’s culinary tradition encompasses a vast array of ingredients that many elsewhere may turn their noses up at — and there are legitimate concerns over the country’s hygiene standards and live animal markets — bat is not commonly consumed.

Australia has seen multiple false claims that tap into prejudice towards its sizable Chinese community.

On Monday, Duncan Pegg, a lawmaker for Brisbane, alerted constituents to a fake Department of Health press release warning against travel to suburbs with high concentrations of Chinese Australians.

“To have false information spread by racist morons creates a sense of fear and anxiety,” he said.

The far-right corners of the internet have also seized on the outbreak.

One early hoax widely spread alleged a vaccine against the virus had already been patented in 2015.

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