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Misinformation around COVID-19 is on the rise

Published: 28 October 2020

Woman wearing a mask on a bus

Believe it's false? Don't share it, report it

Did the moon landing really take place? Is Area 51 real and are UFOs really stored in the facility? Is 5G connected to the spread of coronavirus? Conspiracy theories, rumours, and misinformation spreads so fast online which makes it harder for us to spot the real from the fake and identify verified advice from trusted sources.

Why so much and why now?

We live in a digital age where everything is shared on social media, but we are also living in a pandemic where there is a lot of uncertainty and a huge amount of information related to COVID-19 shared on a daily basis – both trusted and false. Unfortunately, the more trusted information is shared, the more misinformation is circulated via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and other online channels.

The MYTHS and MISINFORMATION around COVID-19 include… (Some of these are really dangerous and hard to believe so brace yourself):

  • spraying and introducing bleach or another disinfectant into your body protects you against COVID-19
  • hand dryers are effective in killing COVID-19
  • young people can't be infected by COVID-19
  • adding pepper to your soup or other meals prevents or cures COVID-19
  • being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds or more without coughing or feeling discomfort means you are free from COVID-19.

Check out the World Health Organisation's list of the most common COVID-19 myths for more.

Reporting misinformation online

During the summer, World Health Organisation (WHO) ran a campaign with the government to do three things; raise awareness of the risks of misinformation around COVID-19, bust the myths and encourage people to double check COVID-19 related information online with trusted sources, such as WHO, national health authorities, the government and local government.
WHO are now asking people to:

  • identify potential false information
  • check to see if it's from a trusted source
  • if not, report it as misinformation on the channel where it's been spotted.

GoViral! to stop it

It's easier said than done to know how to spot the real from the fake but Cambridge university may have the answer. With references to pop culture and the use of GIFs and memes, GoViral! is a fun game that aims to protect you against COVID-19 misinformation by helping you understand the tricks and strategies involved in the process.

Here are a few tips to help you spot false information:

  • did the person send a rumour to the group chat?
  • did the person double check their facts?
  • did the person get their news from trusted sources?
  • did the person ask, 'How do you know that's true?'

Misinformation around COVID-19 can be potentially harmful at a time where we need to protect each other and keep everyone safe. Before sharing information, pause and check that it's from a trusted source. Spread the facts and act now to help stop the spread of misinformation.

Find out about how to report misinformation online on the WHO website.

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