COVID-19’s arrival in Canada has brought many side-effects, including growing concerns about misinformation and deliberately dishonest media dubbed “fake news”.
Although automatic-detection systems have been tested, the rise of misinformation appears to be inherently linked to social media.
However, less-than-factual sources generally share a few warning signs.
One of the biggest red flags that something isn’t right is a headline that makes bold or outlandish claims:
“If it seems like clickbait, don’t click on it because chances are it is not going to be legitimate or scientifically-proven information. If it is a sensational blurb, that is probably a good sign not to click on the article and believe everything inside,” explained Wendy Gray, Vista Radio’s National News Director.
Some copycats might even mimic trusted news sources.
“Some stories look like they’re coming from legitimate media outlets but there will be slight alterations to the URL,” said Gray
Similarly, misinformation may be spread through untrustworthy websites claiming to be news outlets. If you’re not familiar with a website, extra skepticism may be required.
Gray added the social climate of a global pandemic can lead to the spread of less-than-scientific data.
Looking at an article’s sources remains important, as medical doctors and public health officials remain the best source for reliable information.
The public should be cautious as many people earn doctorates, alongside the title of “Dr.”, without any medical training.
“You always go with what the medical experts are saying,” Gray stated, adding “politicians are not medical scientists,” in response to headline-grabbing claims made by political figures around the world.
Familiar, reputable news outlets and credible expert-verified sources still remain the best places to find reliable facts.
“If you need information, obviously check your public health website first, but if you’re looking for general information about what’s going on I wouldn’t hesitate to go to your local media sources… Honest, fact-based news is more important than ever,” she concluded.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control offers valuable COVID-19 information, as does the Provincial Government’s website.