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Make sure you get the right facts around COVID-19

In times of crisis, it’s easy to believe any information you receive. But be aware – some of the news is fake and it’s important to know how to separate the truth from the fiction.

The world is in upheaval at the moment, with everyone doing everything they can to curb the spread of COVID-19. President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced far-reaching measures for South Africa, and we all need to do whatever it takes to uphold the measures he has put in place.

The problem is that there is also a lot of misinformation doing the rounds. It’s important not to panic but you do need to be well informed.  So how do you tell what is real and what is not? There are a few questions you can ask yourself to work out if the news is accurate.

  • Where did the information come from? Just because it is on Facebook or a WhatsApp group does not necessarily make it true.
  • What is it about? Are there solid medical facts from credible sources or authorities backing up the claims that it is making? Or does it just sound like someone’s opinion?
  • If I share this message with anyone, could it possibly do harm, such as causing panic around the virus or giving wrong advice that could make more people vulnerable to contracting the virus?
  • Can I check some other sources to see if it is real? (If the same information appears on a few different credible news sources, such as News24, CNN, EWN and The Citizen, it is more than likely true.)
  • If the information is on a website, is it hard to find a physical address or “Contact us” or “About” pages? If this is the case, be wary, it is probably not a legitimate site.
  • Is someone asking me to do something specific – and if so, could this action maybe hurt me or someone else?

 

When it comes to information about diseases such as COVID-19, however, your best bet is to check for information with global and local health bodies, and follow the guidelines they are providing. You can go to the following websites for legitimate and credible health information

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
World Health Organisation (WHO)
Department of Health South Africa 

As parents, it’s important to get your children to also start to see the difference between real news and fake news – work with them and get them to identify what they believe to be true, and then point out the difference.

How to spot fake news on Facebook

Facebook is becoming a major way that news is spread, but do take care and look out for the following pointers:

  • Be sceptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
  • Look closely at the link. A dodgy or look-alike link may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the link. You can go to the site to compare the link to established sources.
  • Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Be careful if you see these signs.
  • Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify the information.

 

It isn’t always easy to decipher between what’s real and what isn’t, but it is a serious matter. So much so that you could get fined or even receive a jail sentence for spreading fake news, so always double check everything and rather be safe than sorry.

Sources: Parent24; Via Afrika
Image: Getty/Gallo

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