Technology is a major tool for the dissemination of fake news. Since the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has taken steps to prevent an “infodemic”— an overabundance of information and the rapid spread of misleading or fabricated news, images, and videos.
“It helps to think of misinformation and disinformation spreading in the same way as viruses. One person might share fake news with their friends and family, and then a handful of them share it with more of their friends and family, and before you know it, potentially harmful or dangerous information is taking over everyone’s newsfeed,” according to WHO.
The WHO published 7 tips for stopping the spread of misinformation, tips not just relevant to the pandemic, but can also be used in general:
- Assess the source
Who shared the information with you and where did they get it from? Even if it is friends or family, you still need to vet their source. To check for fake social media accounts, look at how long profiles have been active, their number of followers and their most recent posts. For websites, check the “About Us” and “Contact Us” pages to look for background information and legitimate contact details.
- Go beyond headlines
Headlines may be intentionally sensational or provocative to get high numbers of clicks. Read more than just the headline of an article – go further and look at the entire story.
- Identify the author
Search the author’s name online to see if they are real or credible.
- Check the date
When you come across information, ask yourself these questions: Is this a recent story? Is it up to date and relevant to current events? Has a headline, image or statistic been used out of context?
- Examine the supporting evidence
Credible stories back up their claims with facts – for example, quotes from experts or links to statistics or studies. Verify that experts are reliable, and that links actually support the story
- Check your biases
We all have biases, and these factor into how we view what’s happening around us. Evaluate your own biases and why you may have been drawn to a particular headline or story. What is your interpretation of it? Why did you react to it that way? Does it challenge your assumptions or tell you what you want to hear? What did you learn about yourself from your interpretation or reaction?
- Turn to fact-checkers
When in doubt, consult trusted fact-checking organizations, such as the International Fact-Checking Network and global news outlets focused on debunking misinformation, including the Associated Press and Reuters.
Click here to download an infographic that summarises the tips.