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False rumors of Tokyo 2020 Olympic cancellation swamp social media despite denials

A screenshot of an article about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the Tokyo Olympic Games, posted on the portal site "Buzzap!" is seen.

TOKYO -- False rumors that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak trended on social media on Jan. 30, with at least 50,000 such tweets posted that day despite denials by the games' organizing committee.

The source of the misinformation is believed to be an article headline posted by the "Buzzap!" portal site on the evening of Jan. 29, which suggested the Olympics may be called off.

Based on a Deutsche Presse-Agentur's report about a discussion held between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) on measures against pneumonia, the article concluded that the coronavirus outbreak "may have a significant impact on the Olympic games."

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games told the Mainichi Shimbun, "We are not considering a cancellation. We will mull measures (against the virus) if necessary."

Hiroyoshi Sunakawa, professor of media theory at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, said, "Information from just the headline of the online (article) is spreading, making it difficult for the correct information to get across. Rather than accepting false rumors as something of no consequence, it's important to point them out in every case."

On Jan. 30, Twitter Japan set up a link to a Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's website with information on the new virus to appear automatically at the top of the page when users search for certain terms including "coronavirus."

(Japanese original by Hitoshi Kurasawa, Sports News Department, and Tomotatsu Yamaguchi, Integrated Digital News Center)

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