Give ASCI more teeth against misleading corona-related ads. The govt also must crack down on misinformation.
The corona pandemic has led to another concern—various products making unscientific claims to profit from the contagion of fear. For instance, a company called Arihant Mattress put out an advertisement in a newspaper claiming that its mattresses were anti-coronavirus. At a time when scientific information is key to checking contagion and saving lives, such advertising is indeed dangerous. Given concerns of false or misleading ads that cash in on the corona-panic, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), a self-regulatory body, has announced that it will be taking action to clamp down on these, including banning such ads, and implementing penalties.
The scale of misinformation is wide. While there are reports of dairy owners milking the ‘gaumutra (cow urine) offering protection against coronavirus’ claims and selling cow urine to gullible customers at Rs 500 a litre, FMCG and ayurvedic major Patanjali is marketing giloy (Tinospora cordifolia) is remedy for the infection and is selling this. ASCI needs more teeth in regulating such fake claims—it has to be empowered to extract deterrent penalties from companies that put out fake and misleading ads during a global public health crisis like corona. Social media, which has become a convenient medium to spread misinformation also needs to get proactive. Recently, Facebook and Twitter banned ads for face masks for making false claims. Apart from ASCI action, the government should also keep an eye out for misinformation and misleading ads so that the corona-crisis is not deepened by companies looking to make a quick buck.