When the internet was first conceived, the people who did so did it with noble intentions: sharing data. The internet has continued to be a critical source of information, especially in a world ravaged by the coronavirus. Additionally, the internet has also been a critical tool in helping people reach friends and family and find out how they are doing. However, the same internet is now being used to spread misinformation about the virus. In many cases, the people doing so do not know they are doing it, which complicates efforts to spread accurate information about the pandemic. Because misinformation is so dangerous, it could lead to the loss of lives, and we need to find ways of fighting it.
What Is Driving Misinformation?
Before we can fight misinformation, we need to know what is driving its spread. Distrust in world governments is one of the reasons that come to mind. People have called the pandemic a hoax with others blaming governments for creating the virus in the first place. Both of these claims have been supported by inaccurate data and false claims.
Second, there is the monetization of content online. Content creators need views and clicks to make money. Because of this, some nefarious content creators will weaponize fear to increase views and clicks, using inaccurate data that seems convincing enough.
Third, some use disinformation to drive their own agenda. These include people against vaccines, 5G infrastructure, and people who think the government has something to hide.
Lastly, some spread misinformation unknowingly. They believe this misinformation because it helps them cope with stress. A large number of these people are those who argue about COVID vs. Flu infection and mortality rates. They do not want to believe COVID-19 has been shown to have a higher infection and mortality rate than the flu and are using it to cope with their feelings of unease and the fear of something new.
Responding with the Right Information
One of the best ways to fight misinformation around COVID-19 is to respond with correct information. The framing of these responses should be both sensational and passionate while sharing sources and making the debunking believable.
Secondly, people should not shy away from engaging those that are spreading misinformation. Although you might end up upsetting some friends and family members, that is still better than letting misinformation put the lives of countless people at risk.
This is a collective effort for everyone who understands how dangerous things can get if misinformation is left to foster in our societies.
Dealing with Friends and Family
No one wants to be confronted, especially publicly. It can therefore be harder to confront friends and family because relationships can be ruined. To ensure what you are saying is received positively, try to understand why they are spreading misinformation.
If they are doing so to further an agenda, try to provide links and reputable sources that show them what they believe is not true. If they believe misinformation to cope, try to help them deal with their stress and anxieties.
Misinformation is dangerous, with the biggest challenge being changing someone’s understanding of reality. Some people believe misinformation so passionately, it is hard to distance them from it. What you can do in any case is try to provide the correct information in a way that will be understood and received by the person you are engaging.