Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, January 25, 2021 8:42AM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 25, 2021 5:20PM EST
EDMONTON – Microsoft founder Bill Gates did not create the virus that causes COVID-19 and he is not forcing microchips into your body through vaccinations.
Those pieces of misinformation are examples of what a group of Canadian scientists and health professionals is trying to discredit through a new campaign tackling inaccurate theories about the pandemic.
About 40 misinformation debunkers are using the hashtag #ScienceUpFirst to provide science-based evidence on social media.
“There’s been misinformation about all kinds of things that you can do to treat COVID with crazy treatments like cow urine and bleach,” said Prof. Timothy Caulfield, Canadian research chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta.
Caulfield is spearheading the #ScienceUpFirst movement.
“And now we’re in the middle of trying to roll out the vaccine and we know that misinformation is having an adverse impact on vaccination.
“Things like the vaccine will change your DNA. No, it won’t. The idea that the vaccine is associated with infertility. No, it’s not,” Caulfield said Monday in a phone interview.
“There is just an incredible amount of misinformation out there about COVID. I’ve been studying misinformation for decades. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
He said the campaign was already trending on Twitter on Monday, the day of its launch.
Caulfield is known for taking actor Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness brand Goop to task in his book “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong about Everything?” as well as for a Netflix series called “A User’s Guide to Cheating Death.”
The initiative is in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Science Centres, COVID-19 Resources Canada, and the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta.
“There’s been research that has shown that the spread of misinformation is having an adverse impact on health and science policy, it’s led to increased stigma and discrimination, and it’s just added to the chaotic information environment that we all have to deal with,” Caufield said.
“The evidence tells us that debunking does work if you do it well, so we’re trying to do it well. We’re trying to listen. We’re trying to be empathetic in our approach. We’re trying to be creative in our messaging and, hopefully, even if we move the needle a little bit, we can make a difference.”
A spokesperson for #ScienceUpFirst says the campaign is pushing to involve Canadian athletes and celebrities to get the word out about tackling misinformation.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021.
Information posted on Chinese social media platforms could be used for 'hostile activities,' Bill Blair warns – National Post
This is the first time a cabinet minister has so clearly spelt out concerns about all Chinese-owned social media platforms, which combined have millions of Canadian users
OTTAWA – Canadians should be wary of using Chinese social media platforms because information posted there may be used for “hostile activities” by foreign states, says the federal public safety minister.
If you regularly post on Chinese social media platforms such as WeChat, Weibo or even TikTok, the Canadian government has a stern warning for you: be careful, because hostile countries may be watching in an attempt to use that data against Canada’s interests.
During a meeting of the parliamentary committee on Canada-China relations Thursday evening, Liberal MP Jean Yip asked Public Safety Minister Bill Blair if Canadians should be concerned about using social media platforms that are owned by Chinese companies.
“There is a legitimate concern that sometimes the information that’s publicly available on those platforms can be used by the hostile activities of state actors,” Blair responded, adding that Canadians should exercise “caution” on those applications.
This is the first time a cabinet minister has so clearly spelt out concerns about all Chinese-owned social media platforms, which combined have millions of users in Canada.
Many data and privacy experts have warned over the years that these apps harvest large amounts of data from their users (not unlike North American companies like Facebook or Google). But there is an added concern with platforms like WeChat due to the sweeping powers the Chinese government has to seize data from companies based on its soil.
Earlier in January, the Winnipeg Free Press revealed that the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have resisted joining TikTok — an app that allows users to post short videos and “duet” those of others which has exploded in popularity among North American youth — because it considers the app to pose “huge security risks”.
This came months after the U.S. government announced it was banning TikTok and WeChat, originally a messaging and calling app that now offers a host of other services, due to national security concerns.
At the time, the Trump administration said it was concerned that Beijing was exploiting the apps and the troves of data they collect in order to gather information about users and spread Chinese propaganda.
The owners of both applications at the time, respectively ByteDance and Tencent Holdings, gave assurances that the Chinese government did not have access to its user data and that in TikTok’s case, it was never even hosted in China.
In his opening statement, Blair repeatedly warned of China’s increasing attempts of foreign interference in Canada, as well as its role in the current opioid crisis. But he dodged questions by opposition MPs on whether his government would ban Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from Canada’s 5G network.
“While foreign interference is top of mind for my portfolio, it is by no means the only issue on the plate. It’s no secret that China is one of the main source countries of fentanyl, as well as the precursor chemicals used to make this highly potent and deadly synthetic opioids,” Blair said.
“Over the past four years, the Canada Border Services Agency has made 335 seizures totalling over 42.2 kilograms, and of these seizures, 129 listed China as the source country of those drugs.”
Opposition MPs also grilled Blair about a report by the Globe & Mail that Canada had outsourced handling of its visa application centre in the Chinese capital to a company that is owned by Beijing police.
The minister was unable to say which government officials had awarded the original contract to VFS Global, which then dealt with Chinese police-owned Beijing Shuangxiong Foreign Service Co, because he said it was done in 2008, before his government came to power.
When pressed multiple times on if he had concerns about the contract, Blair repeated that he’d been assured no data had been taken from Canadian files.
“Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has an IT department that provided assurances that all our information is in fact secure. There has been no suggestion of espionage or any concern raised, only the fact that a Chinese official entity was involved in this company,” Blair said.
“So your government is totally satisfied with this arrangement and satisfied that it should continue in perpetuity?” NDP MP Jack Harris asked.
The minister responded without saying if the contract with the Beijing police-owned company would continue indefinitely.
“I’m satisfied that IRCC has not identified any concerns and they have provided strong assurances that Canadian data and Canadian interests are well protected in the system they have in place,” he said.
Facebook signs letter of intent with three Australian media firms – Financial Post
SYDNEY — Facebook Inc on Friday said it had signed letters of intent with three Australian media firms, a day after the country’s Parliament passed a law forcing it to pay media companies for using content on its platform.
Facebook said it had signed partnership agreements with Private Media, which owns online magazines, Schwartz Media and Solstice Media. Commercial agreements will become effective within 60 days if a full deal is signed.
“These agreements will bring a new slate of premium journalism, including some previously paywalled content, to Facebook,” the social media company said in a statement.
It did not disclose the financial details of the deal.
Facebook on Tuesday struck a similar agreement with Seven West Media, which owns a free-to-air television network and the main metropolitian newspaper in the city of Perth.
Australia on Thursday became the first nation to pass a law where a government arbitrator can set the price Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook pay domestic media for using their content if private talks fail.
Facebook blocked all news content in Australia a week ago, citing concerns with the rules, but on Thursday restored all news feeds after reaching an agreement with the government.
For months Facebook and Google threatened to pull core services from Australia if the law took effect, but Google struck some deals with publishers in the days before the vote.
(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Richard Pullin)
Japan to end state of emergency for six prefectures this month: media – TheChronicleHerald.ca
TOKYO (Reuters) – The Japanese government will end a state of emergency in all but Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures at the end of this month, a week earlier than scheduled, public broadcaster NHK reported on Friday.
Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi, Gifu and Fukuoka prefectures will all see their emergency coronavirus measures lifted, NHK said.
The government had placed 11 of Japan’s 47 prefectures under a state of emergency in January as a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic swept the nation. One of those prefectures, Tochigi, had already emerged early from the government-designated emergency state.
Coronavirus infections have declined significantly across the country since peaking in early January, including in the capital, Tokyo, and the government is hoping to lift the state of emergency in the remaining four prefectures as planned on March 7, NHK said.
Under the latest measures, Japan has asked bars and restaurants to close by 8 p.m. and companies to strive for more telecommuting. It has also suspended a popular “Go To Travel” subsidised tourism programme.
Japan has so far recorded about 426,000 coronavirus cases and 7,645 deaths as of Feb. 24, according to the health ministry.
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim. Editing by Gerry Doyle)
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