The Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) has drawn up some really useful guidelines, backed by the UK government, focused on how we can all help to stop the spread of fake news about COVID-19. Their CEO Imran Ahmed explained that “Social media is currently awash with conspiracy theories, fake news, and incorrect medical advice about coronavirus and Covid-19.”
This type of content can also be used to target specific communities, ethnic, religious or national groups falsely blaming them for causing, or spreading the virus. It is intended to undermine public trust in institutions for political gain and the spread of hateful nationalist ideologies. This false information is then taken in and shared by others who do not recognise that it is false or highlighted by people who identify that the information is false and don’t want others to be taken in by it. In both cases, these actions help incorrect medical advice and fake news to be spread further.
“Some of it is produced by extremists seeking to undermine faith in government and experts, some by grifters seeking to sell false cures and some are just sadly misinformed and think they’re doing the right thing by spreading the wrong advice.”
So what can you do if you see this kind of thing on social media? #DontSpreadTheVirus
Don’t Engage. If you reply, share or quote false information, even to attempt to correct or refute it, you help it to spread.
Block them. If you don’t know the person who has shared the content, you should definitely not engage them but block them.
Message privately. Or if you do know the person, and you feel comfortable doing so, you could send them a polite message telling them the information is false and explaining why it might be dangerous. You can point them to www.who.int for up to date factual information and ask them to stop sharing questionable information.
Report. On the major social media platforms there are ways in which you can report content to the service. This helps them to monitor and remove false information. You can see how to do this here.
Spread official advice. You can help to move correct information onto people’s timelines. By liking, sharing or posting links to reliable information you help to drown out fake news, you can even become a mythbuster. Below is a list of reputable and reliable sources of information. We will continue to update this information.
The World Health Organisation. This is the best place to get up to date information about the virus and its spread as well as the correct medical advice.
Ben Lacey is a communications officer for Restless Development, and editor of the WeAreRestless blog. He loves writing and reading and spends his spare time performing as a spoken word poet around London.