Useful Tips to Fact-check COVID-19 Information
August 17, 2021
There is currently an explosion of information, comments and opinions on COVID-19 on the internet and social media. We believe that on serious topics in general, and on public health matters in particular, it is essential that you rely on facts and credible, expert information. Our mission at Alea is to bring you the best possible information and advice, so you can make the best choices for you and your family.
Every day we are being exposed to a considerable amount of information about the COVID-19 pandemic and unfortunately some may be misinformation or even fake news. So how to make sure you are getting the most trusted and credible information? Here are 7 tips for you to verify the information and identify false news online.
#1 Know the sources
Whether the information is spread by some random websites, strangers on social media, or your family and friends, it is important to trace the source. If you see a piece of information on any social platform, check if the account that shares it is a fake one. You can do so by looking into date creation, number of followers, pictures, and posts of the account to detect any abnormal signs. You can also check websites’ background and contact information sections to evaluate their legitimacy.
For verifying the authenticity of an image, you can utilise reverse image search tools, such as Google Image Search and Pinterest Visual Search, to see if, for example, it is just reused for a made-up story. As for YouTube videos, you can copy the hyperlink of a video to Amnesty International's YouTube DatViewer, which extracts its thumbnails so that you can put the thumbnail images into reverse image search tools for misinformation detection.
Other signs of an undependable source — although not always the case — include poor visual design, wrong grammar or spelling, or heavy use of capitalization or exclamation points.
#2 Read Beyond the Headlines
In order to get more clicks, news media tend to make headlines as sensational or provoking as possible. We should not make judgments based on headlines only as we may risk falling into the trap of taking exaggerated or inaccurate information as truth. Read more than just the headlines and get more information from diverse sources — both print sources (e.g. newspapers and magazines) and digital sources (e.g. podcasts and online news sites). Exposing yourself to different sources with distinctive views can allow you to see a greater and better picture.
#3 Background check on the authors
Pay attention to the writers of articles, news, etc. that you read on the Internet and search their names online to see if they are credible or real.
#4 Beware of outdated information
Make sure that the information you receive is up-to-date or recent by checking the creation date of the information as well as of the images or statistics used.
#5 Verify the supporting evidence
Credible and reliable information can present its claims with facts, such as quotes from experts or references of scientific studies. Investigate the supporting evidence provided by searching the names of the experts and checking the links.
#6 Evaluate your biases
It is human nature to have biases. However, they greatly influence how we view what is happening around us. For example, we tend to believe news media that have similar political stances to ours and consider things that are said by opposing parties to be false. Therefore, we should understand what biases we have in order to see things more objectively. Perhaps you will be able to realize some media accounts or websites you have been following provide misleading information.
#7 Seek reliable fact-checking organizations
You can also seek trusted fact-checking sources to verify if a news story or rumor is true. Some news agencies with a reputation for being trustworthy include:
- The International Fact-Checking Network
- The Associated Press
- Google Fact Check Explorer
- AFP Fact Checker COVID-19 Verification Hub
- Behind the Headlines
- CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance
These websites are either backed by government bodies, universities or global news outlets focusing on detecting misinformation.
Some final tips about social media sharing
You should ask yourself the following questions before sharing anything onto your social platforms to avoid unintentionally contributing to the spread of false information:
- How does the piece of information make me feel?
- Why am I sharing it?
- How do I know if it is trusted?
- Where did it come from?
- Whose agenda may I be serving by sharing it?
Gerstein Science Information Centre. COVID-19 (2019 Novel Coronavirus) Information Guide. https://guides.library.utoronto.ca/coronavirus/mythsandmisinformation
World Health Organisation. Let’s flatten the infodemic curve. https://www.who.int/news-room/spotlight/let-s-flatten-the-infodemic-curve
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This article was independently written by Alea and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should never be relied upon for specific advice.