fake news button to help stop the spread of misinformation

The infectious spread of misinformation

Colin Garner ANTRUK announcements, Coronavirus COVID-19

Coronavirus isn’t the only dangerous epidemic going on in the world right now: the spread of misinformation is also incredibly troubling. Misinformation is being generated and shared at a rate never seen before – here’s how to keep safe.

Across the world, people are increasingly turning to the internet for information, entertainment and even hope. Antibiotic Research UK is well used to media outlets completely misunderstanding how antibiotic resistance works, and it comes as no surprise that the same is happening with this new and complex virus.

While we can credit the world wide web with providing us increased ability to connect with our loved ones, it has a much darker side.

From naive media reports by people who lack any scientific knowledge, to intentional hoaxes and scams, coverage of COVID-19 could yet prove almost as dangerous as the viral infection itself. Even the accurate and responsibly sourced news could contribute to poor mental health; an additional burden during this time of worry and restriction. The spread of misinformation is a real danger.

Help stop the spread of misinformation

If you are guilty of spending all your free time googling ‘coronavirus’, here are some steps you can take to ensure you don’t become part of the problem.

  • Restrict your consumption of information about the virus to responsible, reliable sources. For example, the World Health Organisation, the BBC, Wellcome Trust, medical charities (such as Antibiotic Research UK) and the NHS. While all sources have some form of bias, it is best not to rely on newspapers, magazines or social media for topics like the current pandemic.
  • Do not allow flashy headlines about miracle cures, unusual remedies and shocking deaths to pull you in. Factual reporting does not make use of emotional/hyperbolic wording to catch attention.
  • Use critical thinking: what does the person sharing the information stand to gain from this? Are they trying to sell a product or service, get you to sign up for a newsletter or drive traffic to their website? Before you share something, pause, check your source and think for a moment.
  • Do not be afraid to call out misinformation when shared by friends and family, if it is damaging. If you know a serial offender on social media, keep them muted or unfollow them for the time being.
  • Limit the time you spend thinking/reading/talking about coronavirus each day. Seriously; put your phone down, turn the TV off. Read a book, get involved in a new hobby or listen to some music.

Key takeaway:

Coronavirus is a hot topic at the moment and many people stand to benefit from spreading lies and misinformation. Be vigilant and cautious when it comes to sharing information. If you’re not sure about something, keep it to yourself until you are.