Fake news spreading faster than COVID-19

Illustration by Daniar Onoz


Consuming alcohol can help protect you from COVID-19. If you catch the virus, going outside in temperatures over 77 degrees Fahrenheit will help eliminate it from your body. Mosquitos can transmit the virus just from biting you. If you believe any of these claims, you are a victim of something spreading far quicker than the coronavirus. It’s fake news, and you are not alone.  

The mass panic that the current global pandemic has created is being fueled daily by the spread of misinformation via the internet. With little regulation, and few people checking facts before “sharing” links through social media, we have created an infodemic.  

Unsupported health tips regarding how to treat or avoid COVID-19 are running so rampant online that the World Health Organization (WHO) has dedicated an entire website to busting these unsubstantiated claims.  

These false claims are not alone in fueling the infodemic. It seems like no matter where you look, the only thing anyone is talking about is the coronavirus. Traditional media sources, while helping spread facts, tend to use the most eye-catching images and attention-snatching headlines to reel in viewers. These tactics are effective, but deceptive, and can lead to panic purchasing and mass hysteria. Focusing constantly on negative headlines is taking a toll on the psyche of Americans. This barrage of increasingly depressing information is not only creating fear, but can also be very anxiety inducing.  

While WHO is working closely with Facebook and other social media platforms to keep up with what rumors are trending, facts don’t always circulate as quickly as fiction. So how can you help protect yourself from this endless flood of misinformation, and stay informed without causing undue stress?  

First, you should always know your source. If you come across an article or video that is making claims regarding the coronavirus that sound suspicious, look at where it is coming from. If it is coming from a news source you have never heard of, it’s time to do some fact checking before hitting share. Usually if information is true, major news providers are the first to cover it.  

If you aren’t sure if the claims being made by those in your feed are true, such as garlic protecting you from COVID-19, you can look on the WHO’s myth busting website before downing a couple of cloves. Garlic may be good for keeping vampires at bay, but it’s not going to ward off this virus.  

Weeding out fake news is important, but how do you stay informed, without becoming overwhelmed? Try not to obsess over every detail. Dedicate yourself to a few different sources, across different platforms, and check them once or twice a day. Keeping the news on in the background, or constantly refreshing your favorite news sites pages aren’t going to give you an edge during this quarantine. If it makes you feel better, that’s fine, but if it is causing you anxiety or fear, it’s time to limit your news intake.

Ultimately, the news is here to serve the public, so use it however you see fit. Put your mental health first, and check your sources, so you can stay informed, healthy and happy.  

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