How to Fact-Check Coronavirus (Mis)Information Online

Illustration for article titled How to Fact-Check Coronavirus (Mis)Information Online

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Don’t believe everything you read on social media. This is a good general rule, but it’s especially important when the news (and your newsfeed) is filled with misleading to straight-up false information about an easily misunderstood topic like the coronavirus.

So how do you know what—and who—to trust?

Journalist Will Oremus points out that a best practice is to cross-check everything you read rather than taking it at face value. Instead of viewing a single source of information as absolute truth, look elsewhere for confirmation of (or to debunk) supposed facts.

Here are a few reliable resources to cross-check about CORVID-19 claims:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO): WHO has the most up-to-date information about what’s going on with coronavirus on a global scale. You’ll find travel recommendations, situation reports and prevention best practices on the WHO website.
  • The CDC: The CDC offers status updates about coronavirus cases in the US and abroad as well as information about testing, prevention and treatment, as well as recommendations and resources for specific groups (schools, hospitals, and airlines, for example).
  • Your state, county, and local health departments: If you want to find out what’s going on in your area, check your health department’s website. This is where you’ll get the latest information about local cases, prevention procedures, community resources, recommended closures, and who to contact if needed.
  • Major news outlets: The media isn’t an “official” source of information, but if you’re looking for news about what’s happening in a specific city or state, check outlets that are local to that area. Don’t rely on your local news in your home state to tell you what’s going on in Washington.

This all boils down to basic media literacy skills—as in, being able to think critically about where information comes from, whether it’s credible and how to evaluate sources. This takes a little more time than retweeting a meme, but it’ll help prevent the spread of bad intel.

Common Sense, a nonprofit that educates kids and families about digital and media literacy, recommends asking the following questions about anything you read:

  1. Who created this—and why?
  2. Who is this message or information for?
  3. What’s being used to make the message credible or believable? Stats? Expert quotes?
  4. What details were left out—and why?
  5. How does this information make you feel?

Bottom line: think before you worry—and don’t simply repeat everything you read.

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