There’s no doubt that over the past few weeks we’ve all been consuming a lot more news to keep up-to-date on the status Covid-19, locally and globally. But, The World Health Organization says that the outbreak has been accompanied by an “infodemic“1:
“An over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it”.
Fake news and misinformation have a fast and far-reaching impact, who you share content with can quickly grow from 1 to 1,000 in a matter of seconds in today’s social world. We encourage you to verify before you believe and share!
How can you help to stop the spread of fake news?
- Make sure you only rely on Government approved sites for the latest updates and reported cases on Covid-19 as well as any changes to lockdown regulations.
- If you come across something that seems suspect, do your research. Compare the facts with Government approved sources.
- Report what you see if you are unsure! Any suspicious and fake news can be reported to https://real411.org.za
- Encourage your friends and family to follow the same practices.
Here is a list of Government approved websites for the latest updates on Covid-19:
- Data free resource portal: https://coronavirus.datafree.co/
For daily updates of countries, territories or areas with reported laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases, you should refer to:
- World Health Organisation Covid-19 situation reports:
- Coronavirus Covid-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE:
Stay up-to-date on what is being reported as fake news:
Do your own detective work!
Feel more confident in being able to identify fact vs fiction. Here is a summary of top tips recently published by Harvard2 on how to evaluate the trustworthiness of news:
Vet the publisher’s credibility:
- Would the publishing site meet government citation standards?
Just because a site is popular among your friends does not mean its content is accurate.
- Who is the author?
Has he or she published anything else? Be suspicious if the byline, which names the author, is a celebrity writing for a little-known site or if the author’s contact information is a G-mail address.
Pay attention to quality and timeliness:
- Do you notice splling errors, lots of ALL CAPS, or dramatic punctuation?!?!?!
If so, abort your reading mission. Reputable sources have high proofreading and grammatical standards.
- Is the story current or recycled?
Make sure an older story isn’t being taken out of context.
Check the sources and citations:
- Who is (or is not) quoted, and what do they say?
If you notice a glaring lack of quotes and contributing sources, particularly on a complex issue, then something is amiss. Credible journalism is fed by fact-gathering, so a lack of research likely means a lack of fact-based information.
- Is the information available on other sites?
If not, then it’s very likely that the journalistic jury is still out on whether this information is valid.
Ask the pro’s:
- Have you visited a fact-checking website?
Africacheck.org has been fact-checking viral WhatsApp messages, Facebook posts, tweets and news articles in recent weeks. Visit www.africacheck.org to help verify the information.
We hope this article was useful and informative. And please remember; stay safe, stay home and help save lives!
1: World Health Organization Situation Report