As coronavirus dominates headlines, xenophobic and insensitive social media posts go viral

Health and City of Toronto officials are calling for calm as panic is spreading over the new coronavirus, citing specific concerns about a rise in xenophobia.

As of Sunday, the new coronavirus has killed more than 300 people, and there are more than 14,000 confirmed cases.

The virus, which was first reported in Wuhan, China in late December 2019, has since prompted the World Health Organization to declare an international public health emergency.

However, while health officials are working to stop the spread of the virus, what’s been harder to track is the spread of racist and xenophobic comments that have surfaced online during the outbreak targeting people of Chinese and Asian descent.

As the number of cases worldwide continues to rise, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, chief public health officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam and mayors in various cities have voiced their concerns over the issue.


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Here are some of the public figures who have made questionable comments during the new coronavirus outbreak:

50 Cent

In the U.S., where cases of the new coronavirus have been confirmed, rapper 50 Cent has shared multiple Instagram posts about the outbreak.

In a since-deleted post, the rapper posted an image of a news article about the new coronavirus along with the caption: “What da f— is this? Trump gonna send these mother f——- back to china (sic).”

Screenshot / Twitter @sohh

Screenshot / Twitter @sohh

Screenshot / Twitter @sohh

UC Berkeley

An official UC Berkeley Instagram account sparked outrage when it listed xenophobia as a common reaction to fear and anxiety around coronavirus.

In alum Adrienne Shih’s criticism, she wrote that the post is “literally normalizing racism.”

After the backlash, the Tang Center, which BeWellCal is part of, removed the post and issued an apology.

But for some, the damage was already done.

Logan Paul

YouTuber Logan Paul, who is no stranger to controversy, posted an Instagram photo captioned “f*** the corona virus,” which appeared to show him partying with Instagram models and an adult film star while wearing gas masks.

Even on the post itself, some criticized the photo and caption as insensitive.

“I don’t think this is so funny, people are dying,” read one comment.

“People are dying from the Corona virus. Nothing to joke about. Guess he never learns,” read another.

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Canadian media

Even members of the Canadian media have been criticized for sharing xenophobic posts related to the new coronavirus.

Peter Akman, a journalist with CTV’s investigative program W5, shared a tweet that was widely criticized on social media.

“Hopefully ALL I got today was a haircut,” Akman wrote, along with a photo of him with a man of Asian descent in the background.

He used the hashtags #CoronaOutbreak and #Coronavirustoronto in the now-deleted tweet.

Four days later, Bell Media confirmed to Global News that Akman is no longer an employee with the company.

When asked whether the tweet had anything to do with the decision, a spokesperson for Bell Media said they “don’t discuss internal employee matters.”


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Popular Toronto Instagram account 6ixbuzz’s posts about the outbreak have come under fire as well.

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In one video, a person is shown in full protective gear, including a protective mask, pointing to a cargo container with the words “CHINA SHIPPING” on the side. 6ixbuzz’s caption asks its audience if they’d be willing to unload the truck for $14 an hour.

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Another post shows the front of Wuhan Noodle restaurant with the call-to-action “@ ‘W’ Must Order Lunch Here”.

As the Toronto Star reports, the restaurant has seen a drastic drop in business and the owner says he found racist comments against Chinese people on the post.

6ixbuzz did not respond to Global News’ request for comment regarding the criticism of these two posts.

The Toronto Sun also shared a video last week with the title: “CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Eating a bat amid coronavirus epidemic.”

“A woman dining in China was filmed taking several bites … well, you watch and see for yourself!” the caption below the video reads.

However, the video wasn’t filmed in Wuhan — or even China — but on Palau, a small island in the Pacific Ocean.

Wang Mengyun, the woman in the video, has since said on the popular Chinese social media app Weibo that the video was filmed as part of a travel program in May 2016, long before the first cases of the new coronavirus were detected.

The clip has since spread on social media, fueling an unfounded rumour that the new coronavirus was caused by human consumption of bats.

The Toronto Sun did not respond to Global News request for comment about this video.

These types of posts and comments have been having a direct negative impact on local communities and people.

On top of that, “isolating or assuming a certain racial group is carrying the disease is counterproductive,” Ho-Fung Hung, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University, told Global News in a previous interview.

For those who want accurate information and updates on the new coronavirus, officials recommend these trusted resources:

—With files from Arti Patel and Olivia Bowden

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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