Fighting misinformation in the times of COVID-19

From following official handles to fact-checking the messages you receive, there is a lot you can do to fight COVID-19 misinformation.

Jagruti Verma
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COVID-19 misinformation

From following official handles to fact-checking the messages you receive, there is a lot you can do to fight COVID-19 misinformation.

As the authorities step up the measures to contain the threat of COVID-19, it is more important than ever for citizens to stay up the date with factual information. While staying from forwarding WhatsApp messages is step one to fighting misinformation, there are some other key steps you can take to be well-aware, keeping your loved ones safe. Twitter is one of the most important tools available for you to fight misinformation around COVID-19. We take you through its use along with other avenues at your disposal.

Don't swipe, follow right

Twitter is currently being used by authorities in the best way possible. Daily bulletins are being put up and efforts are being put to ensure factual information reaches as many people as possible, even if it is via memes and humour. WHO advisories too are being circulated to the hilt. In such times, the most important aspect is to know who to follow.

The World Health Organisation for information, positivity and to know how people across the world are fighting back. The organisation's director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is also super active on Twitter.

Closer home, it is important to follow the central and state health ministry and ministers. Other authorities in the political realm that must be on your following list are your chief ministers. They are all regularly giving out information in media and these briefings are documented well on Twitter.

If your municipality and area police have an account on Twitter or Instagram, you should definitely follow them. If you reside in Mumbai, you are in luck for both the police and BMC are active on social media.

Do not forward

As a rule, forget the fact that WhatsApp has a forward button at all! Simply don't use it. If you find something that is being cited as told by the authorities, go check the social media presence of that authority and send the link of the original post to your friends and family.

WA forward quarantine stamps

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Do not forward anything you get on WhatsApp for even though the information might be right, it is likely to have a gossipy twist to it. Don't fall for it! Recently, we came across a text that accompanied pictures of home quarantined stamps, stating how if you find someone with such a stamp, you should send them home. While it was factually correct, the tenor of communication was panicky. Though the official communication by BMC around the topic was stern, the tone and narrative were informative.

Be a fact-checker!

While there are portals like Boom Live, Alt News and The Logical Indian that focus on debunking misinformation, you too can be fact-checker! All you have to do is arm yourself with a tonne of suspicion and proper tools. Here's a crash course on fact-checking that will help you consume better information online:

  • Google Reverse Image Search: When you open Google Images, you get the option of uploading a picture along with typing a textual query. Use the option to upload the picture you received and see if that picture has been used before. In case you are dealing with a video, you can take a screenshot and run the reverse image test on it.
  • Look for clues: In many cases, you may not find a conclusive result using Google Reverse Image Search. In such cases, you should manually look for clues in the picture. It could be signage of a shop in the picture or the language on hoarding or the dialect, mannerism or clothing of the person. Everything is a clue if you look close enough.

Governments are trying their best to contain misinformation with the help of tools and timely updates. Recently, the Maharashtra Government launched such an initiative on WhatsApp.

Everybody loves a conspiracy theory, but at the moment, mental health should triumph that desire. Remember, if it has even an iota of panic or sounds too good to be true, the communication is not one you should be a part of. Take yourself out of the equation and help others survive and authorities keep humans alive.

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