Spreading faster than any virus, all misinformation needs to reach us is one click, one-touch – reaching us in our homes as we survive lockdowns. Governments all over the world are desperately trying to curb fake news and its spread, they try to veer the information-seeking towards legitimate and trusted sources of news.
Even with this, fear-spreading misinformation can even come from those we respect or care about merely seeking to help, and if we don’t protect ourselves from it, our realities will be warped by those that seek to spread lies and fear.
Just like we have to protect our bodies from viral infections, we need to protect ourselves from a different viral infection online.
Especially now, as we navigate these trying and unprecedented times – more than ever, people need to be media literate. There are simple ways to sniff out fake news about the coronavirus, about anything.
Here are 3 ways to isolate and disregard fake news:
1. Find the news yourself
Look away from social media placing the news on your lap, seek the news yourself. But by no means should you inconvenience yourself.
In this world of über-convenience, there already exist a myriad of options to make your life easier. That’s why news apps have breaking news notification options, and why desktop browsers feature homepages where you can see world news as soon as you open the Internet. Google, Yahoo, and many other email services offer this feature, and they are usually ultra-customizable.
Choose and fit your preferred and most-trusted news sources to your homepage so that vetted information reaches you before fake news does.
If you prefer to find your news on your phone, download a few of the thousands of news apps available – they’ll keep your updated on all the world’s events.
2. Establish a bias against news on social media not from valid, trusted sources
Social media has become an intrinsic part of our lives – everyone we knew uses it in some form. From the wealthy to the poor, we are united in our love of integrated communities and memetics.
Social media is also the place where fake news is spread the fastest, and where people are at most danger to contract it. While trusted news sources are online and on social media, and many people gravitate towards them – the majority of news on social media is garnered from what is known as “Opinion Leaders”.
These are the people who the news reaches first, whether fake or not, and later spread it to their followers. Consider a certain friend or page on Facebook that you think consistently posts interesting or insightful articles or headlines. Do you reblog or share news from them to your own friends and followers?
Opinion waterfalls on social media, from leaders down to followers. This is how one bad source can poison the river. An example of this from last year is the UNISA employee who purported fake news about the Dros rapist. This false information spread like wildfire leading many to believe it, and even blame valid news sites for having a racial agenda when the evidence was fabricated.
To protect ourselves, we need to either become our own opinion leaders – or form a bias against any news that we can’t immediately tell deem as legitimate and trustworthy. Ask yourself; is there a verified logo? Do we recognize this news site? If we can answer all these questions, then we can share it with our friends and followers – if not, we should report it.
3. Use Africa Check
Sometimes even the most valid sources can get it wrong – like when the South African Minister of Health was proven wrong by the Minister of Police – sometimes you just need to double-check.
Enter Africa Check, a website where you can fact check information. It features entire factsheets about huge topics like the coronavirus, where each important point of information links back to a vetted and official source. The fact sheets even inform you on how to debunk misinformation for others who might be trying to impose fake news on you.
Africa Check contains reports fact-checking news from South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and others. It has a report page solely dedicated to debunking fake news from Facebook. Tips and guides on how to fact check and vet information in order to protect yourself and allow yourself to have the most factual information necessary to make clear informed decisions.
In this world enraptured by the storm of fake news, websites like Africa Check are the rarest of diamonds and we should all consider having them at arm’s length – just in case the panic sets in.
So next time that one family member broadcasts a screenshot of a shoddy-looking article, send them a link to Africa Check.
By Luis Monzon
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