How To Spot Fake Coronavirus Outbreak News

Fake news is as dangerous now as it was before the coronavirus outbreak began. 

"We're not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic. Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus and is just as dangerous," World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a conference on Feb. 15.

We are understandably prone to sharing unverified but alarming information online. Many who share hoaxes do not do it to mislead —

they genuinely think they are sharing valuable information with their families and friends. 

However, it is easy to "retweet" something that is just not true, and that does not help anyone. At worst, it can lead to tragic results, as in the case of an Arizona man who reportedly died after ingesting chloroquine at home in hopes of preventing the coronavirus. Chloroquine is an anti-malarial drug that has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the virus, and that no one should attempt to self-medicate with. Though scientists are working to test its efficacy in fighting the virus, there is currently no reliable, published, peer-reviewed evidence to prove it.

In a situation as unprecedented as the coronavirus pandemic, it is vital more than ever to think before you "tweet," and to start, here are the steps that will help you spot fake coronavirus-related news, courtesy of the South China Morning Post:

Verify Account 

Check the account that is posting the information. If the account is verified on Twitter, Facebook and other reputable social media sites, then what it says will lend more credibility.

Check Account Photo 

Check if the account photo seems like a real person, or if it is a photo of a celebrity or something generic like a sunset or flower. Google Search should help you know if that photo is taken somewhere from the internet.

Check Account Age And Follower Count 

A recently created account with only a few to about a dozen followers is unlikely to be the one that can break national or international news. By scrolling through older posts, you will know whether or not the account has always shared verified news reports.

Know Presentation Style

A single tweet alone does not guarantee the authenticity of a news report. It has to be linked to a longer story somewhere. Remember that screenshots of emails, text messages or notes-taking apps are unlikely to make good info.

Check Source 

Reputable names guarantee the authenticity of information posted online and on social media. With this in mind, check if the account attributes information to someone or something well-known such as an organization, a politician or a news outlet. 

Verify The Site

If the info has a link, click it to see whether it goes where you expect it to go or somewhere else. Check the link URL and look for strange spelling or anything unusual in the web address. Even with their slick layouts, unheard-of websites are not likely to be the first and only source for major breaking news.

Check Byline 

Is it a real name? Click through the bio page to see if it sounds real. Check if the author has other social media accounts that will verify that he/she is an actual reporter. Google Image is your friend in finding out if there is a photo.

Verify Information 

A report has more credibility if it is reported by reliable news outlets. News organizations have a burden to check more to verify things before posting on social media. Information from local newspapers have a higher chance of being true than that from a random person with no credible affiliations.

Read The Story Or Post 

Read through the story or post and look for grammatical errors —

check if the wording sounds off as if it was run Google Translate a few times. Grammatical errors are one way fake news sites rip off articles from legitimate news sources.

Trust Your Feelings 

If you feel that a report is not entirely true, avoid sharing it until you can verify its authenticity. Be tactful when you see and point out fake news being shared by someone on social media.

Facebook Facebook has joined Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube in efforts to fight coronavirus-related misinformation. Pixabay