08 April 2020

In today’s world, we’re exposed to an ever-increasing amount of online and social media content – especially in times of crisis. We can’t vet everything that’s out there, but we can control the things we share. Here are some tips to help stem the spread of “fake news”.

2:00 min

Stop. And think… 

Do not automatically share everything you receive. Pause, and think about the source it came from; “a friend of a friend” or “my aunt’s colleague’s neighbour” is a big red flag. The best, most reliable sources on COVID-19 are public health bodies such as the World Health Organisation, SSN in Italy, or state Gesundheitsamts in Germany. 

If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t

Phoney URLs, awkward formatting and layouts, or bad spelling are often a giveaway. If a source mentions “doctor X from hospital Y”, check to see if they actually exist. Similarly, if you see the information on social media, check the account that first shared it. Don’t get caught out by catchy headlines. The title doesn’t always match the text, so make sure you read the whole article first.  

Check all the facts 

Just because you know that one part of an article is true (let’s say, about hand washing), don’t assume the rest of it is. Look at each piece of advice individually to make sure that all pieces of information are reliable. 

Look out for emotional posts

Misinformation often uses emotive language to encourage you to spread it. A post that makes you angry or worried means you’re more likely to click and share it . Be wary of any story that makes sweeping statements or broad generalisations. Urgent calls for action are also often designed to ramp up anxiety – so be careful.

Seeing shouldn’t mean believing… 

False news stories often contain images or videos that have been changed. Even real images or videos can be misleading is applied out of context or crudely edited. Check if the photo has been used somewhere else before. For example, using Google Chrome, you can right-click on the image and select “Search Google for image”. Other dedicated search engines like TinEye can also help find the source.