Rumors about the death of personalities and authorities are an unfortunate but fairly common practice on social media. The speculation about the death of celebrities even has a name in English: death hoax, a term that even serves to classify those cases in which a person deliberately pretends his own death, in a kind of prank or “trolling”, turning into a meme.
But, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil, a country in mourning, with hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of infected, making assumptions about the health of others took on even more cruel shapes.
The most recent case involved the comedian Paulo Gustavo, hospitalized since March 13 with coronavirus in a hospital in Rio de Janeiro. In the early days of April, false information about his death circulated in several WhatsApp groups. The same occurred in mid-December with actress Nicette Bruno. His son, also actor Paulo Goulart Filho, had to publicly deny the rumor that his mother died as a result of Covid-19. She passed away days later.
If journalists previously had the power to report these and other fatalities, today the dissemination of hypotheses is free on the counters of social networks. The main difference between these two processes is the professionalism of the press, which investigates, investigates, confirms and, finally, communicates. Such a method, however, does not exempt it from errors. But it must be remembered that, when a media outlet erroneously discloses the death of an illustrious person, as has already happened with Folha itself, the retraction of the company is immediate, which does not happen when the origin and authorship of an information is not known. false.
It is difficult to understand what motivates the spread of this type of ruthless lie, which only increases the anguish of family members and admirers, but the reasons can be different, whether intentional or not. There are those who invent to gain engagement and audience on platforms and media and there are those who, eager to participate in the subject of the moment, board the boat out of curiosity, without realizing that it is afflicting people and contributing to generate more misinformation.
This is because messages that deal with tragedies directly affect our emotions and, even before we finish reading them, we are already involved with their content. Under impact, it is easier to like, comment and share that post than to seek a safe and official source about what happened.
Cases such as that of journalist Ricardo Boechat, killed in a helicopter accident in February 2019, and presenter Gugu Liberato, who suffered a fall at home in November of the same year, are examples of this. Because they are two personalities admired for decades by large audiences and with whom thousands of people identified, the eagerness to confirm the death and be the first to “break the news” ends up being a trap of disrespect and spreading false content.
By placing our curiosity and immediacy in front of the pain of others, we surpass the limit of common sense in an apparently subtle way. The spread of this type of rumor blurs the border between public and private in the most cruel way possible.
We are not all journalists. Understanding how to obtain sensitive information such as someone’s illness or death is important so that we don’t get carried away by the excess of emotions, let alone by the speed of social media. If they themselves have proved to be a fertile storehouse of ideas and projects that justly demand more diversity, respect and empathy, we need to put this really into practice, especially in a sensitive moment like the biggest public health crisis that has ever happened. we face. It is our responsibility to build better networks.