CAPE TOWN- News and social media content about the coronavirus accounts for much of what people are currently consuming on a day-to-day basis but certainly not all of it is true.
Journalism lecturer in the School of Communication at North-West University’s Potchefstroom campus Andre Gouws shares tips on how you can apply a critical eye when consuming news or social media content related to Covid-19.
Check the purpose of the content
Gouws says that the first red flag should be how you react to the content, whether it is a video, article or image. Often, fake news will invoke emotions. It could make you angry or confirm something that you would really like to believe. Check your own biases and fears, and ask if the message plays into these?
“The creators of fake news are very clever, they play on people’s vulnerabilities and fears,” he said.
Does the information come from reliable sources?
The quickest way to check if the content is fake is to see if reputable news outlets are reporting on the same news. Gouws says that fake news is often “big news”, something which is supposedly tragic, strange or something that seems to affect your comfortable space directly. You can search if local or international mainstream media are reporting on the same news or content.
Fact-check the information
Apart from checking reputable news outlets, Gouws says there are many fact-checking websites you can also use. Africa Check is a well-known resource in South Africa and you can visit the Snopes website. However, these sites often only expose the fake news a day or two after the event, so if you want to know immediately, you will need to do your own bit of research first.
Research before sharing online or commenting
Social media is an easy and effective medium to share information and often misinformation. Gouws says that sometimes people will share an article or comment on it without reading the content of the article. Or people will often only post an extract that might be completely out of context. He says that you need to check that the article is real and that the information it contains is true before you do anything.
One of the best ways to spot fake news is to make sure you are an informed citizen and consume news on a regular basis says Gouws. Listen to the radio, watch news on TV and read on reliable news websites. This will give you a broader world view and will make it easier to recognise fake news when you see it.
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