In the midst of a global pandemic, there are always some people who take advantage of the situation to spread fake news.
Fake news can come from different sources, such as individuals looking to profit from it, politicians looking out for their own interests, or simply people looking to discredit official sources.
Fake news can hurt us by giving us a false sense of security, such as downplaying the severity of the coronavirus or promoting fake treatments to cure it.
To combat it, we must learn to recognize real and false information.
Rampant Fake News
The claims around COVID-19 range from silly to downright dangerous. One rumor stated that 5G wireless networks could spread the virus, while another claimed that lemon water could cure coronavirus.
More recently, conspiracy theorists used the #FilmYourHospital hashtag to encourage people to visit their local hospitals to take pictures and videos of empty parking lots and waiting rooms as proof that the COVID19 outbreak is an elaborate hoax.
Clearly this is untrue. Many hospitals banned visitors and canceled non-urgent surgeries and appointments to free up medical staff and resources for COVID19. They have also set up separate areas for coronavirus patients to decrease the risk of infection for patients with other emergencies.
Misinformation also exists within our governments, with leaders of countries misrepresenting the truth or spreading false information.
In the midst of this “infodemic,” as the World Health Organization calls it, it is important to stay vigilant and skeptical of the news.
- Check if the website is trustworthy: check its contact information and description; make sure other reputable news sources are reporting the same thing; make sure the news date is recent since some websites republish and promote old posts.
- Do not comment or share the fake news. Even if you say it is fake, others might take it out of context.
- Report posts that share the misinformation.
- Combat the spread of false information by spreading news from official websites.
Sources: NYTimes, LiveScience, Guardian, BBC, prattlibrary.org