How to Distinguish Real Health-Related News and Information from Misinformation and Disinformation?
Nowadays, a significant amount of our time is spent interacting online through social media, and these media have become an important tool for gaining awareness of the latest developments and events in the world. Social media can be like a double-edged sword; both a channel for exchanging ideas and a channel for spreading fake news i.e. misinformation and disinformation. Misinformation is “false, inaccurate, or misleading information that is communicated regardless of an intention to deceive”. Disinformation means “false information, deliberately misleading or biased information, manipulated narrative or facts or propaganda.” So, disinformation is knowingly spreading misinformation.
One of the major media threats in today's society is the widespread dissemination of fake news. The dictionary defines fake news as "inaccurate information, often a controversy that is covered by a news report". The fact that anyone on social media can be a source of news raises concerns about the credibility of news sources and the rapid spread of fake news, and can have negative social effects. Now the question arises how to distinguish real news and information from rumors and fake news? Given the current COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of access to the right information, distinguishing accurate and valid health news and information from fake information is of high value and relevance.
People may accept deliberate lies as truth, react to legitimate news, and lose the overall credibility of the "news ecosystem." Therefore, it is very important to be able to distinguish real news and information from fake rumors and news. To do this, it is enough to pay attention to a few points published by the World Health Organization:
Check the news source: Make sure you get the news from a reputable source. If you have news about a website that you are not familiar with, get information about that website.
Go beyond the headline of the news and pay attention to the subject of the news: the headlines may be intentionally exciting or provocative in order to attract more audience. Fake news headlines are often interesting, and if the headline is unbelievable, it is likely to be fake.
Check the author: Search for authors and see if they are. Are they real? The absence of any source or the anonymity of the author can be a sign that the news is fake.
Check dates: Fake news reports may have timelines that are meaningless, or their timing may have changed.
Examine the evidence: The fact that no other source reported the news could be a sign that the news was fake.
Examine your biases: why you might be drawn to a particular news item. What is your interpretation of it? Why did you do that? Do these assumptions challenge you or tell you what you want to hear? What did you learn from your interpretation or reaction?
Ask Experts / Reality Finders: If in doubt, ask experts in the field. There are also reputable scientific and international organizations that check the accuracy of published material, such as snopes.com, politifact.com, factcheck.org, truthorfiction.com, hoax-slayer.com, urbanlegends.about.com and the global news media that focus on detecting false information. In Iran, you can also consult with the responsible academic / specialized departments and health centers. The website and Instagram page of the TUMS School of Public Health are also active for this purpose. Also, by calling 4030, people can get the necessary guidance and receive answers to their doubts about health-related issues.
In the age of communication, it is very important to be able to distinguish real news and information from fake rumors and news; and the above recommendations of the World Health Organization are helpful in resolving health-related doubts. It is recommended not to publish news/information on social media until we are sure that it is correct, and in cases of doubt, to check the accuracy of the content with the help of the recommendations of the World Health Organization mentioned above.
To stop the spread of fake news in our community, share the method of checking the published content with our friends and those around us.