Budapest, Hungary – Hungarian authorities announced on Saturday they had busted an entire network of ‘fake news’ websites spreading disinformation and false reports about the coronavirus in the country, AFP reported.
The Hungarian-language websites dismantled over the week-end published articles with click-bait descriptions and sensational headlines reporting alleged coronavirus-related deaths in Hungary, where no confirmed cases have for now been reported.
According to a statement released by the Hungarian police, who carried out a number of raids and seized computer equipment over the week-end, two people are suspected of being behind this network of dozens of fake news portals.
They suspect the culprits, both of which have been charged by authorities with endangering the public, of having launched this coordinated fake news campaign with the mere goal of boosting online traffic and increasing advertisement revenue.
Hungary is, however, no isolated case, and observers have pointed out that fake news and disinformation linked to the coronavirus and spread mainly on social media platforms has been skyrocketing worldwide ever since the start of the epidemic.
According to the latest update from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Chinese authorities, there has now been over 40,000 confirmed cases of infections in the world, including approximately 300 in two dozen countries other than China.
As of February 10, more than 900 have died from the virus, including one outside of China. This new death toll makes the coronavirus more deadly than the 2002-2003 Sars epidemic, which killed 774 people.