During the COVID 19 outbreak, the internet has been a reliable and for some of us the only way to connect with others and stay informed. However, it is also been the way through which most misinformation about the pandemic has spread and continues to spread.
The use of the internet, and particularly social media, to spread misinformation is nothing new and often people are not even aware that they are sharing inaccurate information while doing so.However, regardless of intentions, misinformation about COVID 19 can have deadly consequences. When you encounter misinformation being spread by someone in your social media feed, what's the best way to deal with it?
Fit Northeast spoke with experts who helped shed some light on the reasons why people share misinformation online and how you can counter it. According to a sociologist it is important to consider what is driving the misinformation.He states that while some of the world's top epidemiologists and data scientists have spent the last several months warning of the dangers of COVID 19, there are still people who are refuting their claims.
Some people have even called COVID 19 a hoax, others have said it's not as deadly as has been reported, while some others have made entire documentaries full of false claims and inaccurate data in an attempt to point fingers at world leaders for creating the disease on purpose. "These claims were quickly debunked, but countless people still share such videos and theories without checking the accuracy of their claims," says the sociologist on grounds of anonymity.
"There are groups of people who are using the fear of COVID and the stress everyone is under to drive their own agenda," said another social expert, also on the grounds of anonymity. Further on a seemingly lighter vein, she stated that these groups include those who are against vaccines, those who fear the government and even those who believe 5G is the cause of COVID 19.
It is easy for misinformation to spread on social media because COVID 19 is a new virus that we are still trying to understandBoth the experts are in agreement that there is also another less devious group behind the spread of misinformation. In their opinion these are the people who are choosing to believe misinformation because it decreases their stress and makes it easier for them to cope with the general feeling of unease that the pandemic has unleashed.
For such people, the misinformation is probably more comforting than the truth and certainly more digestible than all the information we still do not know.
So why should people consider responding on social media with correct information? The problem is that medical misinformation is far from harmless. And experts say with COVID 19, especially, that misinformation seems to be gaining a stronger foothold than anyone should be comfortable with. "It is easier for misinformation to spread because COVID 19 is a new virus that we are still trying to understand," explained a health worker from Guwahati. "Unfortunately, social media becomes a gateway for the spread of that misinformation," she states the obvious.
Incidentally, you may be one of the many social media users who have chosen not to engage with their friends and family as they share misinformation about 'hot button' issues (particularly when it comes to politics) deciding that it's better to not ruffle feathers. However, experts say that the same stance should not necessarily be taken when you encounter inaccurate information about COVID 19. Instead you should actively debunk the misinformation that is being shared, according to them.
So how does one ensure that they are sharing accurate information? "The best way to verify information is to search for the uploader or writer to see what their motivation might be to post or write the article," informed one of the social experts. "The next step is to know where to look for the most up to date, accurate information so that you can provide factually correct resources," she continued.