With the COVID-19 pandemic, a huge amount of right and wrong information has spread to the world. This flood of information is called infodemic. Due to the excessive amount of information, it is difficult for people to find reliable information when needed.
We have all heard instructions telling us how to protect ourselves from the corona virus. We have learned the importance of washing our hands, covering our coughs and sneezes, and avoiding close physical contacts with others. But are we prepared to protect yourself from infodemic – information epidemic or an overwhelming flood of information?
Fact checkers have been fighting against mis- and disinformation all around the globe. The CoronaVirusFacts / DatosCoronaVirus Alliance database already contains more than 5.000 coronavirus fact scans.
The misleading information can be divided into different categories. Misinformation refers to unintentionally disseminated incorrect communication without willful intent or attempt to cause harm. Disinformation means intentionally misleading communications with the purpose of causing harm to a person, community, group of people or government.
One of the most recent COVID-19 fact checks concerned a claim that famous French blue cheese, Roquefort, is a medicine against Covid-19. The French “Les Décodeurs” of “Le Monde”verified the claim and they found out that there is no scientific proof to support this claim – so it was declared to be false information. Two days later, its author made it public it was a joke.
Together with the teachers of the French Finnish school as well as with Finnish fact checking experts of Faktabaari we have collected some recommendations which could help to distinguish information from disinformation.
If you come across a strange statement or claim, take a moment to critically reflect the following aspects:
- Who has produced this information and with what expertise?
- Can you find the writers’ names or a reliable web address?
- When and where has the information been published? Is it still up to date?
- What viewpoint does the source represent (that of a journalist, researcher, policymaker, a public authority, lobbyist, what is the political leaning?)
- Why is it made? What are the motives of the disseminator?
- Is it an advertisement, a piece of news or someone’s opinion?
- Does anyone benefit from this? Is it sponsored by someone?
- To whom it is targeted. How did you get it?
- Does the message aim to elicit a strong emotional response?
- Are there strong story elements attached to the message?
- Are there striking images in the message? Are the pictures authentic, untouched and unmanipulated?
- Can you verify the information from another source known to be reliable?
Social media constantly prompts us to make choices: should I click, like, share or comment? In a digital world, critical thinking requires reflection, ability to resist your impulses, as well as resilience to mis- and dis-information. Do not believe everything you see and be careful when sharing information if you have not verified it.
It is relatively easy to make a quick fact-check if you have got access to internet connection. Here are some useful hints and links:
Fact-proof the claim by trying to find different sources which could confirm the facts.
Use several search engines and avoid using Wikipedia or any other single source as the only source of information.
Check the domain owner information from e.g. WHOIS- service (https://www.whois.com/)
- Verify the authenticity of the images by using e.g. Google reverse image search.
- First Draft has an excellent toolbox to help you to verify images, links and videos (https://start.me/p/vjv80b/first-draft-basic-toolkit)
- Check also the free verification tools offered by InVid (https://www.invid-project.eu/)
Check if the fact-checking organisations have already examined the case (e.g. https://www.poynter.org/ifcn-covid-19-misinformation/)
- Trust scientific facts, not mere opinions!
The internet and social media are overloaded by information on every imaginable subject. It is a real challenge for us all to find, select, use and share the most reliable information. If we are conscious and sensible social media users, equipped with a healthy critical thinking approach and basic information literacy skills, we can avoid getting fooled. Let’s protect ourselves and our friends from an infodemic! Let’s reflect and check the facts before sharing or liking anything!
The CoronaVirusFacts / DatosCoronaVirus Alliance database, https://www.poynter.org/ifcn-covid-19-misinformation/
Roquefort case, Les Décodeurs, Le Monde, https://www.lemonde.fr/les-decodeurs/article/2020/04/22/non-le-roquefort-n-est-pas-un-remede-contre-le-covid-19_6037460_4355770.html
Infodemics Observatory, 2020, , https://covid19obs.fbk.eu/