Online misinformation is changing people’s understanding of issues, and their subsequent behaviour. This matters for all of us – especially for those of us whose job it is to communicate.
Like most people, I understood how the Covid-19 vaccine protected me - but myths about vaccines and untrue claims about the virus have undermined public health and influenced people’s fears and frustrations.
Now Elon Musk has reached an agreement to acquire Twitter for approximately US$44 billion (NZ$66.4b) and with ‘free speech’ being one of his main drivers – could this see an even larger amount of misinformation plaguing the internet?
Free speech is an important part of democracy but leaving content unmoderated on Twitter, or any other channel, could create a space for of dangerous disinformation – like a virus spreading without disease preventions.
A moment that will go down in New Zealand’s history saw anti vaccine and mandates members of our community occupying the New Zealand Parliamentary lawn — the spread of Covid-19 misinformation virus was spreading faster than the actual virus and saw it all reach boiling point with a violent, fiery and dangerous end for all involved.
It seems to be a growing issue many of us are concerned about. According to a recent study from Internet NZ, 58% of New Zealanders — up from 42% last year — are either ‘extremely concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about online conspiracy theories.
The study also found our level of concern about misinformation has also dramatically risen this year. 66% of New Zealanders — up from 56% last year — are either extremely or very concerned that information is misleading or wrong.
Like most of the internet, it can be weaponised. This pandemic has seen the platforms used more than ever before for people to share their beliefs and, in some cases, deliberate mistruths. It doesn’t help that algorithms often send people further down rabbit holes and this leads to untrue content spreading quicker and further than fact.
So what can we do?
- Fight misinformation by ‘pre-bunking’ it, get out ahead of disinformation and share factually correct information from trusted sources. Especially if you have a large following, it lets your followers know that you’re aware and you’re concerned about the false information being spread.
- Fact check what you post or share. It seems simple and like a no brainer – but mistakes happen, especially if it comes from a source you trust.
- Be mindful of your bias. We quickly and subconsciously accept news that aligns with our beliefs and negatively react to information that is different. It’s important to take time and reflect on how news is making you feel before reacting or sharing.
Berkeley University of California has pulled together a page of fact checking sites that could be useful to you in fact checking check it out here: Fact Checkers - Real News/Fake News - Library Guides at UC Berkeley