Information disorder and COVID19

            Think you are reading “fake news” about COVID19? You are not alone. Like many other urgent topics the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, COVID19, are the subject of disordered information, such as  disinformation (organized and deliberate attempts to mislead people) and misinformation (misleading information distributed without negative intent). Such disordered information is dangerous in the context of health and disease. Early this month, for example, multiple people suffered chloroquine poisoning after receiving misinformation that the malaria drug and sometimes cleaning product may be effective against SARS-CoV-2.  

         Moreover, the spread of deliberately deceiving information tends to be well organized, plays on partisan views and readers’ vulnerabilities and takes advantage of social media algorithms. Readers can, therefore,  be at a disadvantage when a subject is new. How do you know when the information you are reading about COVID19 is truthful, or disordered?  

Thankfully, there are many people who study disordered information (e.g. fake news) and have published guidelines on how to vet the information you are receiving. Here we provide a list of resources to help you figure out if what you are reading/hearing is true.

The News Literacy Project: disordered info. flow chart & COVID misinfo. page

Key to identifying mis/disinformation is developing good information frisking habits. The News Literacy Project is a nonpartisan education nonprofit that provides tools to help you figure if you can trust media and social media posts. They recommend  taking 7 steps to sniff out disordered information before sharing it AND they have put it in this very easy to follow flow chart!!!! They even have a COVID19 myth busting page (how not to share bad information on COVID19, beer drinkers are not avoiding Corona beer etc.) along with other resources.

CBC Article: “The Real Fake News” by Andrea Bellmare

There are are more types of harmful disordered information than misinformation and disinformation. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)  summarized research on disordered information in the summer of 2019. Here they list disordered information types and how to spot them.

Snopes: Coronavirus/COVID19 collection of rumours & myths

Key to cutting disordered information fray from the data you need is fact checking information you receive. The fact checking site Snopes has an extensive collection of coronavirus/COVID19 rumours and myths . You can search or look up rumours/myths by category (e.g. industry and business, treatments). Go there to cross-check information, discover its origins and get clarification on a range of topics.

Buzzfeed: Jane Lytvynenko and coronavirus disinformation investigation team

Another fantastic fact-checking resource is Jane Lytvynenko of Buzzfeed news. Ms. Lytvynenko is leading a coronavirus disinformation investigation effort. Buzzfeed is publishing articles daily dispelling rumours, myths and disinformation. You can find her/their articles here.

APNews Fact Check

The Associated Press has a fact checking page for news items that might be hyped or misinterpreted. Many of the facts checked are statements coming from various political administrations. A variety of topics associated with COVID19 are dissected on this page (e.g. auto industry is not close to making ventilators, Chloroquine has not been tested for and is not approved for COVID treatment )

UNESCO: report on misinformation, and training modules for identifying it

UNESCO published a report on “fake news” and misinformation in 2017 that provides short training modules to help journalists and the public identify and remove disordered information from their articles/social media. The report identifies seven types of information pollution from misinterpreted satire, to lies and manipulated context. It also explains “fake news” generation (e.g. foreign governments, misinformed people) and provides tips on how to frisk media for this disordered information.

Hoaxy and Botometer: visualizing the spread of information and finding bots on  Twitter

Think bots might have originated or be boosting a piece of information online? You can search a twitter post and visualize the network (and bots ) that is sharing it via Hoaxy. Hoaxy was developed by researchers at the Indiana University Network Science Institute and the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research. The same team made Botometer, a program that assesses the likelihood that a Twitter account you are following/reading/is following you is a bot. 

We will list more resources as time goes on. Read smart, stay safe. 

JFB – March 24, 2020