Avoiding Fake News During The Corona Virus

The Corona Virus continues its wave of disruption throughout the nation. As we all sit at home self isolating and self quarantining we will tend to spend a great deal of time talking about the virus with friends and family both in person and on the internet, after all it is the only thing anyone is talking about these days, we will spend time looking at statistics and sharing updates and reports with others in an attempt to keep one another informed and up to date. However, this is where we need to be careful as there is an abnormal amount of news being pedaled and shared around that is what we would call in the 21st century “fake news”. This news is made in order to spread fear and chaos and to garner as much clicks, shares or likes as possible. The content of these fake news articles, messages, tweets etc. vary from misinformation on government actions, incorrect figures on infection and death rates and the promotion of ineffective cures and treatments. This misinformation is being shared on social media platforms with millions and millions of users and are being shared around the world.

Our Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar , touched on this issue during his address to the nation on St. Patricks Day stating that it is important to not believe everything you hear and to do some digging yourself and find the truth. In this blog post I will be showing you ways of identifying fake news and being able to spot misinformation when you see it.

The first and most important tip I can give is to look at the source, it may seem straightforward but if the source is not a well known one it may require some further investigation to see if it is reputable. Who wrote it ? Where did it come from ? Look beyond the article and look at the website , its authors , its history and its reputation.

Another helpful tip is to read beyond the headline. Many articles use click-bait headlines to get your attention and they may be misinforming or misleading so make sure you read the entire story before you take the headline as fact. It should go without saying that you should not share any articles without 100% confirmation that the information is verifiable and true. The spreading of fake news is a virus in itself.

If the article has posted links to their sources, citing statistics or anything give them a look too. See if they have used the statistics correctly and not used them in a misleading manner.  There are also smaller ways of spotting potentially fake stories such as check the date or the article it could be older than you expected being spread as if it was brand new. There are also many satirical and joke websites nowadays that purposely upload fake articles for the reason of humour or entertainment so don’t become part of the joke and figure out whether it is real or not.

Quotes are often wrongly attributed to people these days and the latest example is the “quote” from  Trump that says “people are dying that have never died before”. I have been told this and shown articles about this by many people and I did some investigating myself and went on snopes.com a very useful fact checking website and it has absolutely no evidence whatsoever that he has said this. There are many websites like snopes that prioritize the pursuit of truth and can be a very helpful tool in dismissing fake news.