As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate around the world, it’s more important than ever for people to be mindful of what they share online. Unverified or false information creates confusion, and in the worst case can sow unnecessary fear and panic.
Each of us has a responsibility to help reduce the spread of misinformation by ensuring that we only share information that we’ve verified to be true.
Facebook shares five simple steps to check information in your feed before hitting share:
Step 1: Inspect the post
Take note of the headline. False news stories tend to have sensational headlines and use attention grabbing tactics such as ALL CAPS or excessive EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!! Overly dramatic headlines or those with shocking claims that seem too good to be true are likely just that – too good to be true.
Take note of the website name and URL. Dubious URLs or website names often try to imitate those of authentic news sites with tiny changes like a capital “I” for a lowercase “L” or a zero “0” for an “o”. If you’re not sure, open a new browser window and go to the actual site, then compare the real URL with the other one to decide if it’s credible.
Step 2: Investigate the site
If you’ve decided to follow the link, inspect the article page. Check the author’s name – is he or she a credible news source? What other stories has this author written? It’s also wise to check the website’s ‘About’ section to learn more about the site or organization.
Also be on the watchout for inconsistencies with the posting dates or timelines of the story, weird or clumsy formatting, awkward layouts, and misspellings, as false news sites often do not pay attention to details like these. Be skeptical of photos or videos that look manipulated too.
Step 3: Take note of the people quoted in the story
When experts are cited or even quoted in an article but left nameless, “a top expert says…” it may be an indication of a false news story. Double-check if sources, other articles or studies, that the writer has referred to are accurate.
Step 4: Compare with other headlines or stories
Do a quick sweep if other news sources are reporting on the story and check data points with credible sources. It’s more likely for the story to be true if multiple credible sources are also reporting on it.
Step 5: Get the latest and official information on COVID-19
So you can rest assured that you are reading and sharing legitimate and accurate information, refer directly to the following for updates.
- Facebook Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information Center for Pakistan
- Pakistani government website for COVID-19
- NHSRC Messenger Automated Experience Chat Bot
- WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub
- World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 page.
At the end of the day, you must think critically about what you read online and only share news that you know, or really believe, to be credible. Use the above guide as a starting point.
Should you find a post to be a false news story on Facebook, don’t hesitate to report it by clicking the at the top right of the post, clicking Find Support or Report Post, then reporting it as false news.