How to Spot Misinformation About COVID-19

Ever since February, Americans have been seeking reliable information about coronavirus.

We’ve wanted to know what the symptoms are. And whether we should get tested. We’ve wondered if medical personnel could safely handle infected people.

We’ve been interested in learning whether face masks and social distancing really help slow the spread. As well as how many new cases there are in our state. And what percentage of them result in death.

If all the information we gathered were accurate, we’d probably learn enough to keep ourselves healthy.   

Fake News Serves to Confuse

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. There has probably been more false information  about the pandemic – especially on the web – than there has been solid data.

It’s possible fake news has made some of us more cautious than we need to be. At the same time, confusing reports may have provided a false sense of security. Neither has been helpful.

In a moment, I’m going to provide you with five ways to sort out misinformation from the real thing.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the more confusing messaging we’ve heard about the virus. And how social media has helped spread this misinformation.

Are All Face Masks Created Equal?

Over the past seven months, we’ve been given different directions about mask wearing. Including from the same agencies and doctors.

At first we were told it wasn’t necessary to wear a mask. Later they said we should. We also heard only N95 masks are effective. Then we were informed we shouldn’t wear them because medical personnel needed them. And that cloth masks were just fine.

The general consensus now is that masks should be worn by people in public. But some masks are better than others at helping limit the spread.

Michael Mackert is director of the Center for Health Communication at the University of Texas-Austin. He said this. “People tend to find information on the web that conforms with their previous beliefs. And reinforces them.”

Is COVID-19 Airborne?

Does the virus  spread through the air? That’s another question that’s led to disagreement and confusion.

More than 200 scientists appealed to the World Health Organization (WHO) in July to address this idea. But WHO officials replied that more research was required.

Another reason messaging regarding the virus has been so bewildering is this. Not all scientists agree with each other.

Some researchers conducted a study revealing that people need to stay six feet away from each other. Another study showed nine feet is the correct standard.

Does Hydroxychloroquine Fight the Virus?

One of the controversial “treatments” for the virus a few months back was hydroxychloroquine.

President Donald Trump said he took this antimalarial drug for two weeks. He and others said they believed it worked.

But subsequent studies showed it was ineffective against the virus. And that it could be dangerous for some people.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a statement in June warning against its usage to fight the virus.

Social Media Accelerates Misinformation

Complicating the matter is how quickly confusing and inaccurate information spreads. Especially on your Facebook and social media accounts.

Gary Kreps is director for the Center for Health and Risk Communication at George Mason University. Here’s what he says.

“Some social media users are better than others at providing interesting and believable accounts about the pandemic.

“Many people are very concerned about the pandemic. And are eager to get quick answers about how to avoid and respond to the virus. So they may rush to judgment. And accept recommendations that are not helpful, and sometimes dangerous.”

Bad Data Can Be Deadly

This next statistic is as difficult to believe as the fake news we see about the virus. But apparently it’s accurate.

Avaaz is a nonprofit advocacy group. They conducted a study about false information related to the coronavirus.

Their results showed that health misinformation spread by networks on Facebook was viewed 3.8 billion times over the past year.

This number dwarfed the amount of views of health information published by major health groups.

And false information can be deadly. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene reported this. Some 800 people globally died in the first three months of 2020 due to misinformation.

5 Tips to Sniff Out False Info

So, how can we tell if information we hear or read about the pandemic is accurate? There’s no easy answer. But here are five tips you could follow.

  • Beware of exaggerated language. Such as “groundbreaking,” “revolutionary” and “breakthrough.” This often applies to “cures.” The more hyped a cure is, the less likely it’s true.
  • Be suspicious of conspiracy theories. Every once in a while an unusual theory will prove accurate. But they’re usually unfounded and exposed as falsehoods.
  • Make sure the information is backed by reputable health organizations. If a group you’ve never heard of suddenly says they have an effective vaccine, be skeptical.
  • Don’t just read the headline. Especially if it seems outlandish. Read the article. Determine whether the facts presented warrant the headline that convinced you to look at it.
  • Watch out for excessive numbers of typos. Legitimate news groups have editors who keep that kind of thing to a minimum.

We now know a lot more about COVID-19 than we used to. By separating misinformation from the real thing, we can learn even more. And hopefully we’ll be able to use that accurate data to stay healthy.

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Comments

Susan Patricia Shephard - September 11, 2020

Re: Covid-19 & Face Masks, Stats. Dr. Daniel Erickson MR Who is the CEO of “Accelerated Urgent Care” in CA USA & Dr. Rashid Buttar MD & Dr. Judy Mikovits have much Interesting Info on this Virus. Along with Many Other of their Colleagues.

Katrina Pulliam - September 11, 2020

I believe Facebook as well as other social media is taking down conservative commentary rather than “misinformation”. I think that all voices need to be heard and let people make up their own minds as to what is “misinformation”. This article implies that adults are stupid and can’t tell the difference.

Valerie Peterson - September 11, 2020

Hi. As regards hydroxy-chloroquine, you don’t have the current information from the best doctors in the country. You know the Lancet report that supposedly showed it didn’t help was withdrawn? And since then the main infectious disease fellow at Yale? Harvard?, Dr. Risch, I believe his name is, has come out strongly with reports from many tests done worldwide, and field results of us, showing that it is VERY EFFECTIVE when used EARLY. It cuts that need for hospitalizations, and thus potential deaths by something like 84%!!!! But it is NOT EFFECTIVE IN LATE STAGES, once people are sick enough to need a respirator! I’ve been hearing regular updates on Bannon’s War Room programs, but I don’t see an easy article to steer you to there. Dr. Risch was on a few weeks ago, and confirms everything that group of doctors spoke about in protest to restrictions, and then were silenced by government and media. They’ve also had the Jewish doctor in NYC on a few times, who used it very early in the pandemic, and saved his whole community, when the virus was blowing through it big time. Shouldn’t we listen to the doctors who are not losing any patients to death? And who are taking it themselves for protection, as for malaria?! The evidence is clear from those who aren’t tied to big pharma, and just want to see people stay well – the media just won’t let it out there! Nor WHO/CDC, etc. Also, much evidence coming from third world countries where this drug is regularly used for malaria prevention all the time- as it is for many international travelers – without any warnings about side effects, as they are very rare. Scientists are befuddled about why these countries they thought would be basket-cases have passed through the pandemic relatively unscathed. It’s because many people already take HCQ!
I hope you research this further with the clues I’ve been able to give you. THANKS!

Robin Stull - September 11, 2020

In regards to email regarding Covid 19:
Based on my family’s personal experiences with this virus and our ages and lifestyles I will render my personal thoughts as you asked.
My wife and I are in the high risk age group, over 60, disable, her diabetes,and others, mine COPD and others. We do not go out socially. We social distances before it became the norm.
Our 40 to 50 year old son is a Law Enforcement Officer . ie: wearing mask and gloves while on duty during the " peaceful protests " in Birmingham AL. He contracted the virus and quarantined at home. His wife during that time ( same group as he ) passed away from a cardiac arrest in their home.
Myself, Wife and daughter ( 20-25 year age group ) went to the hospital and his home that day. Wearing masks, both wife and daughter became ill and wife was hospitalized shortly after. Both tested positive. Wife checked herself out after 9 days as she felt she was better,and wanted to come home.
I eventually was tested after a cardiac arrest and stroke which I refused to have EMT called at the time as I didn’t want to die in a hospital alone with a tube shoved down my throat.
We have all recovered and are skeptical of the frenzy and lockdowns.
I claim no political party affiliations other than common sense and a rich history of military service to this country.
Whatever may happen , rest assured we are prepared to deal with it accordingly sirs and fellow citizens.
God Bless This Great Country 🇺🇸

Anjee - September 11, 2020

What a garbage article! Wow. So you’re encouraging people to blindly follow the mass manipulation being perpetrated on the American people by these “big name” health organizations? Those same “reputable” health organizations responsible for the lies, manipulations, and DEATHS surrounding this PLANDEMIC? I would think a company such as yours would encourage the question-askers and free thinkers…apparantly not. You keep wearing your useless masks that have ZERO to do with safety and everything to do with control, and I’ll take my conspiracy theory dollars elsewhere. In fact, I’ll be looking into returning the products I’ve already bought while you excitedly hold your breath for a vaccine.

Denise - September 11, 2020

Make us some good quality masks that work to protect us ..unfortunately as most of us well know this virus is not going away ! And I assume there will be new forms of different viruses released also..we need real protection…good quality virus killing disinfectants also and eye protection too !

Sharita English - September 11, 2020

Great article

Michael L Ellis - September 11, 2020

I understand but please, for all of us, post it!
Thanks,
Michael

Michael L Ellis - September 11, 2020

Social media presents HUGE problems worldwide. It gave birth to fake news. I have no solution and at this point perhaps nobody except the internet’s creator, Al Gore, can stop it. Yes, that was a ludicrous statement. But no more so than when Al announced to the world he created it.

I highly, highly recommend everyone who uses the internet, especially dominating their time immersed in social media, watch the brand new Netflix original docudrama
“The Social Dilema.” I think it debuted just yesterday, September 9, 2020. I think all governments, especially ours as it greatly affects our freedom, require all currently using the internet watch it and indicate in some way they watched the whole thing. For those who are signing on for the first time should be required to certify they watched it before doing anything else online. It does not matter whether you are Christian or atheist, Republican or Democrat, etc. It applies to you. You may not even know if you are one or the other according to the incredible, fact based expose’ on what this is really doing to civilization as we once knew it. I consider it as an accelerant to far worse times to come. Amazingly it does not hardly mention either of those things but it is clear those things along with everything about everything is WRONG on the internet. Sure, it clearly states the virtues of the internet but how do you know if what you see or read on the internet, especially in social media, is true or not?

This comes from many of the creators and should be mandatory watching, especially by those who are responsible in any way for other people like everyone holding state and federal office.

This is THE document explaining exactly is going on out there creating all the divisiveness among people today. It applies to everything and everyone and should not be missed.

Please share this post with everyone you know and every group you visit once you have seen it. Again, it is on Netflix and is titled “The Social Dilema.” Many of you have figured it out already but most have not or there would be no using the internet unless you just don’t care about yourself or mankind.

Not having a subscription is no excuse. Netflix offers a seven day free trial so go that route if you have to. In my mind, only the Holy Bible is more important than this docudrama. And once you have seen it, you should come to the conclusion that it should be okay with everybody why I said that.

Go now! Netflix.com and “The Social Dilema.”

Thank you for taking the time to read this and please, for everybodies sake, share it everywhere!

Most sincerely,
Michael Ellis
Camilla, Georgia
United States of America

David Piper - September 11, 2020

The government was giving details of who was getting the virus and dying from it. Now the government is giving only cases and deaths. Also i could find no cases of open air events that where supper spreader events but open air event are caste like all other events. The government is manipulating the public. As for hydroxychloroquine with 60 years of use and over a billion prescription there is no question about safety. The first reason against it was there be shortage for the people who need it a lie. The only reason against hydroxychloroquine is it is cheap and no one can make money of it.

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