On March 6, President Donald Trump said that “anybody” in the US can take the coronavirus test although doctors and health officials reported a shortage of tests in the country.
The statement created confusion, and the media scrambled to fact-check the statement and reconfirmed with doctors and the statement turned to be false.
This is just one of the many examples of how misinformation spreads in the world.
Fake news is a grave problem, not just in the US but across the world, including Asia. Fake news and disinformation are created and spread through social networks and propaganda sites, which have often led to far-reaching consequences.
Taiwan based QSearch came up with a remedy to tackle fake news a few years ago. The company combats disinformation by helping government officials track high-velocity content that generates negative emotions by sending an email alert to government agencies, so the officials in charge can determine if the content needs to be removed.
Its services are now being used by the governments in Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines in their respective local languages.
In this interview with e27, QSearch Founder Roger Do shares his concerns about how the crisis is affecting businesses in Asia and what startups can do to cope with or how to recover from the crisis.
As a data company, tell us how about your latest initiative that plans to help the community during this time?
Just like COVID-19, misinformation can go viral and does not respect borders; it replicates and travels faster than the physical virus. We have already seen self-medication-induced death stemming from President Trump’s statement.
Therefore, to combat this as a social intelligence data platform, QSearch is offering free viral COVID behaviour alerts to government agencies.
When social media shows high-velocity content or content that generates high negative emotions, we send an email alert to the government agency so the officials in charge can determine if the content needs to be combated, mediated, or can be safely ignored.
While we were preparing the alerts for the Arab-speaking countries, we saw that the top news that went viral were fake remedies and cures. In fourth place, it was a Russian Today’s article broadcasting China’s claim that COVID-19 was a US biological weapon. A hazardous situation if left unmanaged.
Wow, I guess conspiracy theories are not subjected to any location. But aside from that, which countries are you currently helping out? Are there other countries that you think are at a potentially higher risk for misinformation to spread?
QSearch started by offering the service to regional governments, and the agencies of Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines are already receiving frequent alerts in multiple languages.
We worked with the former Dean of Lee Kuan-Yu School of Pubic Policy, Dr Eduardo Araral, to offer this service through their alumni network since most of them are connected with their government.
We even had queries from Russian language-speaking countries, and we’re setting up alerts. We aim to help various governments in Asia, which have been hit the hardest, to have some digital assistance.
Right now, we’re concerned with India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.
**The COVID-19 pressure is increasing and even though some people want to hide their emotions most of us are freaking on the inside. What steps do you think startup leaders must take during this tumultuous period?****
All startups must have two operating plans based on a world that will recover in 2019 and one where it won’t recover until 2021. When going through these planning processes, it’ll become apparent if a startup will survive or not.
If you can survive, startups must plan and operate on the assumption of recovery and a potential bounce back. However, if your startup won’t make it its best to do a control shut-down, return the funding, take care of your people and your supporters.
Right now is the time to show one is a responsible leader, and life will ultimately reward one with another opportunity based on how the inevitable is handled.
That being said, on the brighter side, many companies are also offering free and additional services to combat the crisis, but what do you think could be the repercussions of this in the future? Would this be a problem?
Actually, it is the opposite. Many of the world’s powerful brands were created during times of struggles and therefore had an enduring emotional connection with the people they helped.
It is very heartening to see so many startups pitching in to help as this is also a time to forge more inclusive bonds.
Some startups will emerge from the epidemic with a life-long bond with their users, so this is the time to solve problems with the community rather than see it is a monetary hit.
As a parting message, what advice would you give to entrepreneurs right now?
Never waste a good crisis. All companies must solve a problem, and this epidemic is a stress test on our modern lifestyle.
What startups and astute entrepreneurs can do at the time of a crisis is spot the cracks in the way society has operated and they will come up with solutions that may improve on the reliability, resiliency and the redundancy of the foundation of our everyday life.
This is an opportunity to make our society and global community better and stronger, and only innovation can do that.
The article was first published on e27, on Mar. 25, 2020.