There are those who think they have found miracle cures against the disease those who are still convinced of the big plot of the pharmaceutical companies or those who do not doubt that the Covid-19 is spread by 5G. Since the start of the epidemic, the coronavirus has been the subject of a torrent of false or distorted information that the media have had great difficulty in rectifying. Once again, it goes through social networks, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. The difficulty, in addition, is that fake news is also spread by WhatsApp type messaging, by SMS or simply by e-mails, that is to say private circles of friends or family. These messages are only visible to those who exchange them.
On WhatsApp, you have to look at the small arrow at the top left of the transferred messages. If it’s a double arrow, it means that it is a message that has been massively forwarded to several people. For the past eight days, it’s no longer possible to forward this kind of message to more than one group at a time. WhatsApp has taken this step to limit the multiplier effect.
Facebook, Twitter or YouTube are trying to tag or even delete the wrong information. But, between Facebook, which tends to delete too much, and Twitter, which would still let 60% of false information pass, we see that it is not easy.
If you find information on the Web, the Trusted Sources site, launched by the association Villes Internet, offers an extension for browsers (Firefox and Chrome) which allows you to instantly identify public, institutional and university sites broadcasting reliable content.
The best protection is common sense and critical thinking. We must be wary of simplistic and spectacular arguments, which claim to reveal scandals or plots. Many fake news can be identified by the vocabulary used (“Share en masse … The media doesn’t talk about it … It is a government plot … Here is the truth … A well-placed friend told me that … “).
You should go back as far as possible to the source of the information and check whether this source is reliable. Search engines allow you to verify many things today, provided you go through with the verification. It is not because information is widely shared that it is true. It’s often the opposite.
The problem of spreading information is deep. It is based on widespread distrust of the authorities, institutions and the media, which are all put in the same basket. The spread is also based on psychological biases, such as the need to be comforted in one’s certainties.
Fake news appeals to emotion at the expense of thinking. This evil potentially threatens everyone, not just the least educated. Only constant vigilance can cope with it.