Byte me

Byte me

News of a mystery Cambodian illness has gone viral this week, spreading across the internet ecosystem faster than the real world infection.

Although the wire service Reuters first reported that the World Health Organization was investigating the deaths of “at least 60 children” on Tuesday last week, the story blew up when it was seized upon by media giant CNN two days later.

Their website described the severe neurological and respiratory symptoms, the almost 100% mortality rate and the concern of Cambodia’s regional neighbours but things really got gruesome when CNN’s Dr Sanjay Gupta (“Staff Neurosurgeon, Emory Clinic CNN Chief Medical Correspondent”) flew into town.

Gupta’s graphic tweets and sensationalist stories painted a picture of doom, a dark world where “a mysterious syndrome [is] killing children so fast nearly all of the children infected with it die within a day or two of being admitted to the hospital.”

His colleagues frantically bashed out 140 characters describing how “thousands of parents flood hospitals w/sick children” and Gupta’s producer tastelessly uploaded what looks to be an Instagram photo of a pitifully small child in a hospital bed surrounded by tubes and his agonised mother.

CNN’s highly efficient social media machine ensured that their coverage was tweeted and retweeted, bouncing around the internet and compounding the pressure.

Now the Twittersphere began to light up with frenzied messages and terrifying rumours. As if the apocalypse was upon us, Twitter users wished good luck to loved ones and strangers alike and declared that they held the people of Cambodia in their thoughts and prayers.

I’d be touched, if I wasn’t an atheist.

CNN quietly acknowledged in a brief article on Wednesday that although a tragedy, the deaths were not linked to a mutant super killer, but rather “a mix of pathogens…and the inappropriate use of steroids.”

It’s too late CNN, the damage is done – the world thinks Cambodia’s population of under fives is being eradicated.

The newscaster’s overriding desire to break news first and biggest has got it in much more serious trouble recently. Its reporters called it wrong on Obamacare last month and broadcast live and incorrectly from the Supreme Court steps that the President’s flagship legislation had been struck down – confusing not just its viewers, but also the President, apparently.

The trouble is, particularly in the era of social media, news spreads like bacteria – spreading and mutating at speed – and it can’t easily be stopped.

As CNN’s coverage of “Cambodia’s mystery illness” has proved, inaccurate media reporting can sometimes be more contagious than a contagion itself.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom may hire Turkish power ship

    Cambodia is considering negotiating with Turkey to hire a 200MW-capacity power ship to meet electricity demands as the country faces an ongoing electrical shortage, according to the prime minister. Speaking to garment workers in Pursat province on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Electricite du

  • ‘Kingdom lacks up to 400MW in available electricity’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the general public, hoteliers and businesspeople with generators to use them as back-up as the Electricity Authority of Cambodia cannot generate enough electricity to meet needs due to low water levels in power station reservoirs. On Saturday evening

  • EDC tackles power shortfall

    Electrcite Du Cambodge (EDC) on Monday issued a statement updating the public on its efforts to tackle insufficient electricity supplies during the ongoing dry season. Reductions in electricity prices have resulted in a steady increase in consumers in the Kingdom, while local and international investors

  • African swine fever spreads to VN-Cambodia border

    African swine fever has spread to parts of Vietnam that border Cambodia’s Ratanakkiri and Kratie provinces, a Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official said on Friday. Tan Phannara, the General Directorate of Animal Health and Production director-general, told a Phnom Penh workshop that