Social media and communication apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp are useful for sharing news and information with friends and family. Communicating in this way with friends and family is particularly important during the coronavirus pandemic we are currently experiencing, when many governments across the world have placed restrictions on social gatherings and travel.
However, these apps can be easily used for the quick and widespread distribution of misinformation. Misinformation is false, inaccurate, or misleading information. It can come in the form of voice notes, status updates, and news articles. Often these posts appear to be trustworthy, especially when shared by friends. Some voice notes, for example, claim to be from a “doctor friend”. But it is important to be cautious about the information you see online.
Misinformation during the coronavirus pandemic can be very dangerous. People may receive the wrong advice about how to stay safe, or risk their health by trying a fake ‘cure’. It is very easy to publish inaccurate information online. R:Ed have written mythbusters about some so-called ‘cures’ you may have come across.
So where can you find information that is both reliable and up to date?
WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (WHO)
WHO are a member organisation of 194 countries, funded by contributions from both their member governments and outside donors. They are a specialised agency of the United Nations that support countries in improving public health and fighting disease. They are responsible for monitoring the global spread of the novel coronavirus and coordinating the response of governments around the world. Their website, www.who.int, has a dedicated section on the coronavirus pandemic, which covers accurate advice for the public. It also includes a Myth Busters area, with factual graphics that you can download and share.
Warning: Beware of emails or WhatsApp messages that claim to come from WHO, as these may come from scammers. The advice from WHO is as follows:
The World Health Organization will:
- never ask for your username or password to access safety information
- never email attachments you didn’t ask for
- never ask you to visit a link outside of www.who.int
- never charge money to apply for a job, register for a conference, or reserve a hotel
- never conduct lotteries or offer prizes, grants, certificates or funding through email.
YOUR GOVERNMENT’S OFFICIAL WEBSITE
You should also visit your national or local government’s official website for country- or area-specific updates. Here you should be able to find information about social distancing, services which are still operating or are closed, and about whether or not you should be wearing masks, for example.
FACEBOOK CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) INFORMATION CENTER
Facebook has worked with WHO and national health ministries to develop a resource that is trustworthy and relevant. The Information Center features recent updates, helpful articles, and links to recognised health organisations. Find it at the top of your mobile Facebook app, or under the Explore tab when browsing on a computer.
RIGHT FOR EDUCATION
We are Africa’s largest independent online destination for educational content. Explore the site to read regular updates on how the coronavirus pandemic may affect you, and find answers to frequently asked questions. There is also fact-checking coverage of common myths you may have encountered, called ‘mythbusters’.
When you see information online, try to use the above resources to check the accuracy of it before you share it to your social network!