Rebecca Cotton (2020) shares this example:
Some disinformation is entirely false and fabricated, like this “news” article claiming Pope Francis has coronavirus. As this twitter user points out, the domain was registered several years ago in China and suddenly changed a couple of days previously.
In July 2020, a video spreading misinformation about COVID-19 treatment and mask wearing was shared on social media. Even though Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube worked to remove the video, it was shared and viewed millions of times in the few hours it was available.
Other misinformation may be shared accidentally because the person posting it feels it is true. Fortunately, this is often debunked by legitimate media outlets and health organizations.
Another kind of misinformation is balance bias. The media often attempts to present a "balanced" view of an issue by presenting two or more sides. Often in science and health reporting, positions that are not supported by evidence appear in the same article as scientific consensus, confusing publics and creating a false sense of balance between medically sound, evidence-based information and unsubstantiated views.
Automated or "bot" content is another form of misinformation. Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science released a report in May 2020 about how bots spread discontent by creating the impression that people are upset or disagree about COVID-19 reopening plans in the U.S.
Want to get better at spotting dis and misinformation? Read this excellent overview of The Simplest Way to Spot Coronavirus Misinformation on Social Media. It outlines Mike Caulfield's SIFT method for assessing digital information.
Read the boxes on the right to learn how to assess information, spot various kinds of dis and misinformation, and find accurate COVID-19 info when you need it.
Cotton, R., 2020. Misinformation, Disinformation, Fake News: Why Do We Care? Office of Government Relations, Episcopal Church [online ] Available at: https://tinyurl.com/rut5kql [Accessed 3 April 2020].
Learning to find, assess, and use information to answer your questions is a powerful antidote to misinformation.
1. First, educate yourself about misinformation and COVID-19 (see links, below).
2. Second, learn First Draft's SHEEP method of analyzing social media information (see infographic below).
3. Third, strengthen your own information literacy:
General info lit resources:
Health & science info lit sources:
COVID & science or health misinformation
Bots & spotting BS (bad sources)
iFrst Draft News, 2019. Don't get tricked by online information. [online] Available at: https://firstdraftnews.org/latest/information-disorder-the-techniques-we-saw-in-2016-have-evolved/ [Accessed: 3 April 2020].
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