False information about the coronavirus pandemic is a serious problem, despite the efforts of social media companies to stop the flow of deliberately inaccurate and misleading articles and postings.
“We are in a situation in which lives are on the line, and we’re hanging in the balance of truth versus lies,” said Brooke Binkowski, a professional fact-checker with Truth or Fiction.
Binkowski said the stakes are especially high with the pandemic because the promotion or sharing of a bogus technique or false cure could literally have deadly consequences.
Separating truth from fiction on the coronavirus is especially challenging, Binkowski said, because so much information is flowing and new developments are happening so quickly.
“The one that’s been enacted into a policy after policy, is that the drug cocktail of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin is curing COVID-19. This is not true,” Binkowski told NBC 7 Investigates.
She cited other, more extreme examples of deliberate misinformation. People are setting 5G towers on fire across Europe, she said, in the mistaken belief that wireless technology is spreading the virus. Other internet sources claim Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is responsible for the pandemic.
Binkowski said it’s important to check closely the source of any information about the coronavirus. Take the time to examine a claim, before accepting it as fact, or passing it on. Check it with trusted organizations, like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Beware of your own personal biases, and remember that everyone’s anxiety about the pandemic makes it easier to accept and spread false information.
“Check your emotional responses,” Binkowski advised. “Listen to experts and do your own research. I think that those are the best ways to begin fighting the scourge of this misinformation.”
But Binkowski said that effort has not stopped people in private social media groups from linking to and sharing misinformation about the virus.
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) offers these tips for spotting fake news.