Many of us may be receiving loads of information on COVID-19 either via WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and several other social media platforms from family, friends and acquaintances.
The first thing we are likely to do after reading these messages or articles is to share because we believe by so doing, we are keeping each other safe. As much as we may want to help others, we should be mindful that this is a period where many are also spreading fake news knowingly or unknowingly, a situation that sometimes contribute to heightening fear and panic.
Below are some key things to consider before sharing or forwarding any message you receive:
What is the source?
When you receive anything, whether already published on a website or as a text message via WhatsApp, Facebook or other social media platforms, look out for the source and also check if there are any references. If there are, check the official websites of the references to be sure what is attributed to them is actually coming from them. If not, disregard it. For instance, if an article or message references the World Health Organisation, check the WHO’s official website (www.who.org) for any such publication. If you can’t find any such thing, disregard the news or message.
Another thing you can do is to search if other credible sites have published the article. In doing this, be wary of fake websites and portals that may be parading as authentic accounts. For instance, bbc.com is not same as thebbc.co neither is who.org same as who.com. Also, verify the author of the said message or article to find out if they are authentic and can be trusted. If you do not find any other thing they have written, you should be suspicious, especially when they are posing as experts.
Grammatical error and wording
When reading forwarded messages or news articles that seem “too good to be true,” look out for grammatical errors, punctuations and other basic things like tenses and presentation. If the sentences are not properly constructed and are error ridden, you have to reconsider your decision of re-sharing. Most credible news site will do a good job at editing their articles before sharing. Also, anything written entirely in capital letters or containing a lot of exclamation marks should raise suspicions.
Read beyond the headline
Because clicks and number of visits to a website matter a lot, most articles or publications are very likely to have “catchy” headlines which may not exactly fit or communicate the content of a story. It is advisable to read the story beyond the headline to get a full understanding and full information from the story.
Check the date
If it is an article that was published on a news website, check the date of publication. Sometimes, old articles pop up and others are likely to pass it around as new, especially if the content of the article is related to a current discussion.
Use fact-checking websites
If you have done all the above and you are still in doubt, use fact-checking websites like fact-checkghana.com. These are website dedicated researching and verifying the authenticity of viral articles, visuals and audio-visuals as well as checking the veracity of claims made by key actors, especially during this Covid-19 period.