Almost everyone who uses social media (such as Facebook or Twitter) and messenger services like Whatsapp comes into contact with misinformation such as misleading content on the Coronavirus. This content can be voice messages, links propagating incorrect health advice or remedies, or videos including conspiracy theories, for instance on the origin of the virus and the cause of its spread. The problem is here: Content that circulates in closed private networks is considered particularly credible. This makes it all the more important not to spread dubious content.
Individuals spreading misinformation usually do not do so with bad intentions, but out of concern or ignorance. However, sharing misinformation often leads to even greater uncertainty, sometimes causing panic. The more emotional a report is, the more often it is shared. For that reason, it is important to take a step back and keep calm. Better to erase it than to spread it further.
In the following, you find a range of different questions and tools that can help to verifiy content and its legitimcy.
- Does the article/message mention the original source? Compare this article/message with this original source.
- Search for the exact headline of the article/message by using the quotation marks to find the original source. Example: “COVID-19 – The Death Rate Is Rising”
- How is the overall language of the article/message? Do you notice a lot of grammar mistakes? Use Google Translate to translate the text literally to other languages and look for the exact heading using the quotation marks to find the original source. Example: “COVID-19 – The Death Rate Is Rising”
- Does the content of the article/message fit the headline?
- Do different, reliable media outlets report on the topic and if so, do they come to a different conclusion?
- Was the article/message already fact-checked by different fact-checking organizations?
- Pay attention to the URLs. Some websites are mimicking already existing media. Example: ABCnews.com vs. ABCnews.com.co
- Regarding articles: Pay attention to the quality of the logo and design of the media outlet.
- Use reverse image search to see whether photos/messages are legitimate and not taken from other contexts. This can also be done for profile pictures on social media to identify fake profiles. You can use TinEye to do so.
- Conduct a reverse video search by taking a screenshot of the video and verifying it through reverse image search tools such as TinEye.
- Look at the quotes in the article/message: Who expressed them? Is the person an expert in the given field? Did these quotes come from another context/story?
- Compare the statements with publicly accessible studies and renowned experts in the given field.
- Are there quotes from many different experts and do they represent different viewpoints?
- Pay attention to the owner or financial supporter of the media outlet/source in question. Could there be any governmental or editorial influence or is there strong political bias?
- Research the source of the article/message. Is the author a renowned journalist? Is it a person that you personally know? If the message was forwarded, can you track the chain back to its origins?