The coronavirus has revealed our somewhat nearly absolute dependence on ‘online’ for information. The volume of people who believe it is true because they saw it on facebook, were tweeted at on Twitter or because it was gram’d on the insta or worse still those who read about it in a WhatsApp group with very respectable members of society.
But the truth is news today – especially those from sources other credible publications and citizen journalists – can and are manipulated.
One wonders what the gain is for those who manipulate news and/or create entirely fake content. In my opinion, motivation ranges from pure mischief to potentially wanting to create a desired effect (panic, worry, influence popular opinion etc.). And there are those who create and spread fake news/content because they feel their opinion supersedes evidence and science – they are firm that their gut’s feel is right and science, rigour and reasonableness could all take a walk!
I have seen people get scared as a result of these bad news. Worse, I have seen people act on some of these ill intentioned communications. And whilst one continues to wonder what can be done to arrest the scourge of misinformation, one appreciates such efforts by:
- twitter to fact check prominent people spewing misinformation on its platform as the recent fact checks of the US president has shown;
- fact checkers like AfricaCheck and Snopes (there a ton more out there)
The Open Democracy – an an independent global media organisation – in contributing further to ensuring safety of us all has published a coronavirus knowledge test to help each of us test our knowledge of the virus, help bridge observable gaps and more importantly ensure we do not inadvertently cross the line between being responsible citizen and being an irresponsible one.