Unless you and your neighbours have taken social distancing to a whole new level and are living off-grid under a rock somewhere, the likelihood is that we are all being exposed to HEAPS of COVID-19 information, every single day.
What with with official communications from governments and health organisations, updates from our employers or services we usually access, the news, web articles, blogs, vlogs, tweets, posts, stories, podcasts… it’s an absolute flood of information, and online, it can spread to lots of people, very quickly.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) are calling the situation an ‘infodemic’.
The thing is- not only do we have information coming at us at all times, from all directions, but not all the information we receive is actually reliable. So how can we tell whether the information we receive can be trusted?
Here are seven steps from the WHO you can take to navigate the infodemic, and decide what information you should trust:
1. Assess the 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.
When it comes to images or videos, make it a habit to verify their authenticity. For images, you can use reverse image search tools provided by Google and TinEye. For videos, you can use Amnesty International’s YouTube DataViewer, which extracts thumbnails that you can enter into reverse image search tools.
Other clues that a source may be unreliable or inaccurate include unprofessional visual design, poor spelling and grammar, or excessive use of all caps or exclamation marks.”World Health Organisation
2. 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.
Search more widely than social media for information – look at print sources such as newspapers and magazines, and digital sources such as podcasts and online news sites. Diversifying your sources allows you to get a better picture of what is or is not trustworthy.”World Health Organisation
3. Identify the author
Have you heard of them? Can you find any other evidence of them or their work online? Do they have any proof of expertise in the area they’re talking about, like a genuine qualification or track record of experience that can be proved?
If not, you might want to take their words with a pinch of salt- especially if they are making claims that seem far-fetched or concerning, or they don’t back up their claims with supporting evidence (see point 5).
4. Check the date
When you come across information, ask yourself these questions: Is this a recent story? If it’s a few months old, is the information still relevant? What has happened since? Do more recent events change anything about your understanding of the story? Has some information, like a picture, a quote, or a statistic been used out of context?
5. Examine the supporting evidence
For example, quotes from experts or links to statistics or studies. Verify that experts are reliable (see point 3) and that links actually support the story. You might have to do a bit of digging!
6. 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?”The World Health Organisation
7. 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.”World Health Organisation
We hope you’ve found these resources useful. The WHO has produced everything on this page to be shared, and all the graphics and GIFs are free and downloadable from their website– so do feel free to share them with friends and family online.
We know it can be a bit overwhelming to navigate, but hopefully some of the resources we’ve shared will make the process a bit easier.
Doing the detective work to get clued up and check whether that all the information we receive is trustworthy can be time-consuming- but we do recommend that if you’re in doubt, and you’re not able or willing to do the checking, then just don’t share!
If you see anything online that’s spreading misinformation about COVID-19, or anything else, you can report it. Click here or on the button to learn how to report misinformation online.
Click the button for how to report online misinformation.