In his regular media briefing on May 8, Dr. Charles Gardner, the medical officer of health for Simcoe Muskoka, expressed concern about the rise of misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories related to COVID-19.
“…I think it’s very important that people be aware that there’s that kind of misinformation out there and to use a critical eye when you encounter information like that and ask yourself ‘what’s the source of this information?’—is it a valid source, does it really make sense in any way, and better yet to go back to trusted sources of information, valid, scientifically based sources of information,” he said.
There’s no question that it can be a challenging task to determine what’s true and what’s false, one that requires vigilance. The spread of both misinformation and disinformation are made easier by social media channels—it takes just one or two quick clicks to pass something on—as well as the rise in sophistication of the methods used to spread disinformation, in particular, that can make a questionable idea seem plausible. They prey on fear and are often designed to trigger an emotional, rather than a rational, response.
And with information rapidly evolving as scientists around the world race to understand this new coronavirus and how to best mitigate its effects—and some eager to take advantage of gaps in knowledge to spread unsubstantiated theories or lies—it makes critical thinking more important now than ever.
How can you sort the fact from the fiction and help to stop the spread of misinformation?
First, pause before sharing. Check the source. If there isn’t one included, that’s an immediate red flag. If there is one, is it one that you trust, and are there other, independent, and trustworthy sources that are saying the same thing? (We’ve gathered together some sources you can use below.)
If the content is suspicious and it’s on a social media platform like Facebook or Twitter or on a video-sharing platform like YouTube, report it.
If it maybe, kind-of-sort-of seems like it could be true, but you can’t verify it or don’t have time to, don’t share it. Even the most careful among us can be fooled by a well-crafted lie.
What are some credible sources of COVID-19 information?
Turn to public health agencies for details about the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), the infection it causes (COVID-19), and best practices for stopping its spread:
Where can you fact check something you saw about COVID-19 on the internet?
COVID-19 (2019 Novel Coronavirus) Information Guide from the University of Toronto Libraries
The COVID-19 misinformation page created by Ryerson University
The International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) at the Poynter Institute
COVID-19 mythbusters from the World Health Organization
Where can you build your fact-checking chops?
Doubt it? Check it. Challenge it. created by the Canadian Journalism Foundation
CIVIX digital information literacy for students in Grades 5-12
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