Coronavirus misinformation is flooding the internet.
A UK parliamentary sub-committee is asking members of the public to submit examples. The committee has particularly requested submissions of disinformation spread in private groups and closed apps such as WhatsApp.
Meanwhile, experts are calling on the public to practise “information hygiene”.
So what can you do to stop the spread of bad information online?
You want to help family and friends and keep them in the loop. So when you receive fresh advice – whether by email, WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter – you might quickly forward it on to them.
But experts say the number one thing you can do to halt misinformation is to simply stop and think.
If you have any doubts, pause, and check it out further.
Before you forward it on, ask some basic questions about where the information comes from.
It’s a big red flag if the source is “a friend of a friend” or “my aunt’s colleague’s neighbour”.
We recently tracked how a misleading post from someone’s “uncle with a master’s degree” went viral.
Some of the details in the post were accurate – some versions, for example, encouraged hand washing to slow the spread of the virus. But other details were potentially harmful, making unproven claims about how to diagnose the illness.
“The most reliable sources of information remain public health bodies like the NHS, the World Health Organisation, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA.” says Claire Milne, deputy editor of UK-based fact-checking organisation Full Fact.
Experts are not infallible. But they are much more reliable than a stranger’s distant relative on WhatsApp.
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