Think before you share: Rumor control in the time of COVID-19

By Shawn Cunningham
© Telegraph Publishing LLC

The World Health Organization has a Myth Busters Website for COVID-19. Click image to enlarge.

There’s a lot of mistaken, misinterpreted and downright malicious stuff out there about the coronovirus that causes the illness Covid-19. And much of it is spread through social media.

Before you share something that seems dire, ask yourself if it’s true. Spreading misinformation can be damaging to efforts to control the coronavirus and in some cases – like the incredibly stupid idea that drinking bleach will prevent or cure infection – may actually cause harm.

Before share a post, think critically and look to the authoritative online sources for reliable information.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers a comprehensive, regularly updated rumor control website to dispel disinformation that is circulating online.

WNYC’s On The Media’s Breaking News Consumer’s Guide: Infectious Disease Edition.

In addition there are several

  • FEMA: The agency offers a comprehensive overview of the virus and the government’s response efforts.
  • The World Health Organization has a “myth busters” page on its website as well as authoritative information on the pandemic.
  • PolitiFact: The trusted news organization provides a list of seven tips on how to avoid falling for falsehoods surrounding the pandemic.
  • The Journalist’s Toolbox: The Society of Professional Journalists offers a list of verified links to official sources of information and data.
  • On the Media: This radio program produced by WNYC in New York has created a Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook. One edition describes some general guidelines for looking at news about infectious diseases.  You can also listen to the program OTM produced on the topic online at that link.

As always, there are several good sources for general information on the virus and what you should be doing.

And according to a press release from the Vermont Department of Public Safety, “people also should be cautious about email scams and malicious websites that are seeking to exploit the current situation. Vermonters are reminded to follow best practices for safety online, including verifying links in messages before following them, ensuring the legitimacy of websites before visiting them, and being especially skeptical of unusual emails.”

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