Coping with fake outbreak news

THE coronavirus pandemic is leading to an information overload for many people, often making it difficult to separate fact from fiction, or rumor from deliberate efforts to mislead.

There are social media posts telling people that one way to get tested for the virus is by donating blood, warning that mosquitoes can carry it or to prevent it by eating bananas.

All are untrue. Such falsehoods can endanger public health, sow confusion and fear, and prevent important information from reaching people during a crisis.

There are ways to separate fact from misinformation. First, look for and go straight to the source. We are more likely to believe things our friends tell us, but that is why rumours spread.

Be wary of important-sounding information that is not coming from a clear, authoritative source, such as local government agencies and health departments, or national and international public health institutes like the WHO (世衞) or the CDC (美國疾控中心) in the US.

Try to confirm information from multiple sources, like journalists. Even if a news outlet is at first alone in reporting a big development, others will soon follow. If this does not happen, it could be a red flag.

Do not believe everything you see. Bad actors and trolls exploit people’s fears by using a variety of techniques to sow confusion.

Photos and videos can be edited and altered, and real images can be presented out of context.

(This article is published on Junior Standard on 2 April 2020)


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