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​​​​​​​Fake news and misinformation in the COVID-19 era

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By AuthorAID Team | May 18, 2020  | None

Adaora C. Obuezie from Nigeria is a Librarian, an Educator and a PhD student of Library and Information Science. She is concerned with the indiscriminate peddling of fake news and misinformation with COVID-19 and highlights ways to tackle it.


In the present Coronavirus pandemic, a lot of fears and uncertainties have been generated over time. The virus outbreak has really exposed emotions and how most people handle information. One may not be 100% accurate but we need to tread with caution, share with care and be sceptical in our mode of information dissemination. It is most disheartening to witness some information specialists intensify the peddling of misinformation. Maybe it is out of anxiety or as a result of being biased or wishing so much for a fallacy to become fact. We need to be careful with the way we handle information especially in the time of crisis as misinformation can kill, dehumanise and tarnish reputations. 


During the time of Ebola outbreak in Nigeria, avoidable deaths as a result of misinformation were recorded. False news of salt water being a preventive measure and possible cure for Ebola saturated social media and took many people to early graves. It was a very sad development. 


We have many misleading headlines, confusing newspaper captions, fabricated news and so many other misinformation sources to watch out for. Our mode of information handling should always stand out to guide the populace in making an informed decision. We should inform and not misinform.


In my training as a librarian, information is evaluated before dissemination, taking into consideration the C. R. A. A. P method which stands for Currency, Reliability, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose. When a post is shared through any medium, it is important to find the original document. Turning to the research means you can be educated without relying on others' summary. The date of such publications is also important as people tend to match old pictures or news with present events just to create panic or make money. Analyse the headlines to get the purpose of the post. Be sure it wasn't merely to elicit a reaction or make a juicy headline. Our personal biases most times makes us to avoid scepticism thereby causing us to believe fables and involve in its circulation. The reliability of every story line matters. We should always look at fact checkers. Vet the data we are about to share and, when in doubt of its accuracy, pause to research first. Try to share posts from recognised authorities. Exerting self control in disseminating information is paramount especially for information specialists. Desist from being ecstatic to share posts especially when it seems to illustrate more on your personal opinions. Exert some level of self control to always share facts. 


Let's only share information from a verified or a verifiable source. Disseminate facts and not fables. Maintain great integrity of crosschecking stories before you share and shun false hood because fake news is shared by humans.


Adaora C. Obuezie can be found on Facebook and Twitter. See her research on Research Gate and Google Scholar


Note from AuthorAID: INASP, which runs AuthorAID, has just released a set of free, self-paced tutorials for researchers, including one to help with developing critical thinking skills. For more information, see here.

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