In the fight to curb the spread of the pandemic, we must address the threat of misinformation. The emergence of the deadly coronavirus led to an abundance of information being spread from all kinds of sources, causing an infodemic.
An infodemic is regarded as excessive information—including false or misleading information—in digital and physical settings during the outbreak of a disease, which leads to confusion and risk-taking actions that can have a negative impact on health.
When the spread of fake news is left unchecked, it has the power to erode and overshadow credible information that can save lives. In the current digital age, where social media make it easier and faster to disseminate information, we must ensure that the wrong messages are not infiltrating our spaces and spreading further. Here are some tips to help you do so:
a. Only share vaccines from credible sources
Before you send or share information related to COVID-19, ensure that you do your research and verify the credibility of the source(s). World Health Organization and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control are examples of credible sources of COVID-19 information.
b. Do not amplify fake news
When you receive or come across COVID-19 information on social media, ensure that you verify its credibility before sharing it with others. If you are not sure of its credibility or if you are in doubt of its source, do not amplify it.
Many times, individuals create messages fueled by religious and ethnic sentiments which can drive fear and panic rapidly. Fact-check always.
c. Acknowledge your biases
When you hold certain notions, beliefs and biases, you might find yourself trusting and believing messages and information that align with them, without verifying the validity first. When this happens, there is a tendency to share this information with others and if false, it could lead to a spread of misinformation.
According to The Conversation, “people who underestimate their biases are actually more vulnerable to being misled than people who acknowledge their biases.’ It is advisable to do your research and seek out other perspectives on the topic, not just those shared by your community.
d. Counter fake news with information from credible sources
Conspiracy theories and false information can mislead people and prevent them from taking necessary action that can help in reducing the spread of the virus, while encouraging them to do things that can affect their health and well-being negatively.
Therefore, it is not enough to ignore fake news, you have a responsibility to counter it with information from credible sources, as well. If you read or hear false information in physical discussions, online group chats or virtual forums, ensure that you politely but firmly point it out and share accurate information.
e. Report misinformation
You cannot counter and stop misinformation if you are not informed. Take out time to acquaint yourself with facts and updates on COVID-19, so that you can recognize fake news when you see it and have the right information to dispel rumours and conspiracy theories.