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How to Fact Check News About COVID-19

Illustration: Mazie Neill · The Sentry
With widespread information about COVID-19, knowing which information to trust is paramount.

Being able to fact-check information is crucial during this pandemic.

As of April 8, 2020, the United States is now the leader with the number of cases in the COVID-19 pandemic passing both China and Italy in the past few days. Information about COVID-19 changes rapidly and is reported immediately. The spread of misinformation has never been more prevalent or essential to identify than during this pandemic.

COVID-19 is dominating news outlets and media across the world. With the majority of the population being quarantined, citizens are continually updating themselves on the virus. Understanding accurate information about COVID-19 will help people understand how to stay safe. Social media is a first-stop venue for all information relating to COVID-19, and it is one of the main sources where the many will rely on information during this pandemic. Social media companies have already taken steps to ensure that users are receiving up-to-date and accurate information.

According to an article written by Bernard Marr in Forbes, Twitter “Stepped up its use of machine learning algorithms to detect the spread of false information that had the potential to cause harm, and flag that content for removal. This included detecting accounts being used to deny or advise against following official advice, or promoting “alternative” treatments or cures that are not proven to be effective. It was also programmed to look for commonly-spread falsehoods, including the alcohol cure or children being immune to the illness”.

Other companies such as Facebook have also taken measures similar to Twitter to help stop misinformation about COVID-19 on their platforms. As of now, there is no known cure for the virus, and the World Health Organization has created a “Myth Busters” website to help people understand fact from fiction. Organizations have provided key areas to look for when reading about COVID-19. According to an article written by Robert H. Shmerling, MD, in the Harvard Health Publishing website, “It’s best to look for sites that:

  • Rely on experts who use well-accepted scientific analyses and publish their results in reputable medical journals.
  • Have a mission to inform and protect the public, such as the CDC and WHO, which recently added a myth busters page to its information on the virus.
  • Are not promoting or selling a product related to the information provided.”

In addition to focusing on those criterions, citizens are advised to still rely on traditional media outlets, while using a healthy dose of skepticism to determine what is real. Shmerling of the Harvard Health Publishing Website also offered advice on what outlets are reliable “Other good online sources of information of the virus include:

  • Medline Plus, from the US National Library of Medicine
  • The UK’s National Health Service
  • The US Food and Drug Administration
  • Major news outlets with deep expertise in health reporting, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe’s STAT News”.

Information regarding COVID-19 will change and be reported rapidly; citizens should focus on the information coming from organizations like the CDC and WHO to help better understand information about the pandemic.

 

 

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