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Three steps you can take to help fight viral Covid-19 misinformation

Web Foundation · April 2, 2020

As the pandemic has spread around the world, so too have conspiracy theories, fake cures and rumours. In a rapidly changing public health crisis, where accurate information is critical to helping us respond safely, misinformation can be deadly. To curb the spread of the Covid-19 we need to beat the parallel threat of viral misinformation that feeds the virus.

Governments and companies are responsible for countering the flood of falsehoods and we’ve called on them to take urgent steps to do so. As citizens, we too have a huge role to play.

We must be the immune system for the web. Bad actors, trolls and opportunists will always try to infect the web with rumours, myths and lies. And others will reshare them in a genuine desire to help others. But these can only go so far if we don’t spread them. We must act as antibodies, stopping falsehoods in their tracks and overwhelming them with accurate information from credible sources.

Whether staying at home, washing our hands, or wearing a facemask, we’re already taking steps to stop the virus. We must be just as vigilant against viral misinformation. Here’s what you can do:

Get the facts out

Share accurate, credible updates and advice from trusted sources like the World Health Organisation (WHO), public health authorities and reputable news outlets. 

The better you understand the causes and symptoms of Covid-19 and how it’s spreading, the better you’re able to identify false content and share accurate updates to your friends and family.  

Take care before you share 

We’ve all been told to take 20 seconds to wash our hands. Take at least the same amount of time to pause before you share content.

Ask yourself:Is this information accurate?Does it come from a credible source? If you’re not sure, search online to see if you can verify it. You can also check images and videos that may have been taken out of context using tools like Google Reverse Image Search, RevEye and InVid (Politifact).   

Unsure if there’s a plan for helicopters to spray disinfectant? Or if sunlight prevents the virus? Organisations like Full Fact, Africa Check, PolitiFact, Fact Crescendo,, the World Health Organization (WHO), the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance as well as reputable news outlets are fact checking commonly made claims about the pandemic.

Help others get it right

Content gains momentum when you share, quote, or reply to it. That means even if you’re pointing out that it’s false, you could be inadvertently spreading inaccuracies.

Instead, if you see a bogus claim shared by someone you don’t know, report it and then block them. Find out how to report content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp. If the claims were shared in a private group, flag it to the group administrator.  

And if your friends or family are sharing false content, gently message them privately to ask them to stop, providing them with authoritative sources instead.

The web is a powerful tool to fight against Covid-19, connecting us to the information we need when we need it. We must fight against viral misinformation online to give us the best possible chance to defeat the virus and save lives.

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