Media literacy in Coronavirus time: How to fact-check information on the internet?

During a public health emergency, staying informed and having is more important than ever. A social media post, a quote or a sound record does not have to be true as one of your firends shared or a so called expert shared. Here we have assembled some general tips about how to detect false information and common myths about Coronavirus.

3 Minute intensive guideline

More detailed guideline

Virginia Tech’s health communications expert Adrienne Ivory offers the following tips for fact checking online information related to COVID-19.

Be aware that a lot of social media posts about the COVID-19 virus are fake. Organizations ranging from Facebook and Google to UNICEF are working hard to combat a flood of misleading and inaccurate stories about the COVID-19 virus. Be skeptical of social media posts about the COVID-19 virus, even those that have the superficial look of news items, and check their sources and accuracy. If you are not sure whether a source of information can be trusted, check multiple news sources to see if the information is consistent across them.

Check information and instructions about the COVID-19 virus against official sources. False information about how to prevent and treat the COVID-19 virus is also appearing wildly in social media posts. Before following suggestions and instructions about the COVID-19 virus that you read on social media, check an official site like the Center for Disease Control’s COVID-19 site.

Pay attention to summary information in news stories, not just individual anecdotes. Interesting examples of people and events related to the COVID-19 virus may be true, but not typical. In addition to reading stories about individuals, pay attention to general information summarizing more broad populations (numbers of cases, rate of growth, hospitalization rates by age group) because it may be more relevant and representative.

Seek information that helps you be healthy and keep others healthy, not information that scares you. Much of the most “viral” news you encounter in social media posts about COVID-19 may be focused on frightening stories. While you should take the COVID-19 virus seriously, make use of information that tells you ways to prevent transmission rather than stories that only frighten you.

Do things that are healthy, not just things that everyone else is doing. Just because you see other people hoarding toiletries or buying masks online doesn’t mean you need to do the same. Follow recommendations from reliable sources rather than following what you see friends and family talking about doing online.

Be wary of posts that focus on politicization of the COVID-19 virus. False information about political figures and organizations has already been a big problem for years, and it is an issue with posts about the COVID-19 virus. While criticism and commentary regarding government actions related to the COVID-19 virus are acceptable, be skeptical of posts focusing on political information and check them against other sources.

For a more detailed factchecking guideline, follow this link:

A Guide to Coronavirus Coverage by

In fact-checking political claims and debunking viral deceptions, have found a tremendous amount of misinformation on the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s a guide to our coverage of the facts. Click on the headlines for the full stories.

Gargling Water With Salt Won’t ‘Eliminate’ Coronavirus
A viral image circulating online is falsely advising social media users that gargling water with salt or vinegar “eliminates” the coronavirus. There is currently “no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus,” according to the World Health Organization.

Infographic on Facebook Distorts Comparative Facts on Viruses
A misleading chart being spread on Facebook, erroneously dubbing the new coronavirus the “least deadly virus,” contains outdated information about the coronavirus and erroneous information about the death rate of the 2009 pandemic of H1N1.

Viral Social Media Posts Offer False Coronavirus Tips
Posts are circulating false and misleading tips on social media — in some cases wrongly attributed to Stanford University — about how people can monitor and avoid the coronavirus.

Coronavirus Fears Haven’t Sunk Sales of Corona Beer in U.S.
Corona’s parent company reports that its beer sales in the U.S. are up this year, contrary to viral Facebook posts that falsely claim its U.S. sales have dropped because of the new coronavirus.

Contrary to False Posts, Sanitizer Helpful Against Coronavirus
Screenshots circulating on Facebook falsely claim that hand sanitizer will “do nothing for the coronavirus.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says hand sanitizers with 60% alcohol can be used to help prevent contracting and spreading the virus.

All of our coronavirus stories can be found here.

Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout

Viral Misinformation

We’ve published a significant number of articles on false and even dangerous information that has circulated on Facebook and other social media. Some of our most popular stories include:

Baseless Conspiracy Theories Claim New Coronavirus Was Bioengineered
Several online stories inaccurately claim that the new coronavirus contains HIV “insertions” and shows signs of being created in a lab. But there is no evidence that the new virus was bioengineered, and every indication it came from an animal.

No Link Between Harvard Scientist Charles Lieber and Coronavirus
Lieber, a nanoscientist, was charged for lying about his participation in a Chinese recruitment program and his affiliation with a Chinese university. He is not accused of being a spy and has no connection to the new coronavirus.

COVID-19 Tests Don’t Cost Over $3,000
A meme with the false claim that “[t]he US is charging over $3,000 per test” for patients who may have COVID-19 has been circulating on social media. For now, the two agencies authorized to test for the illness are not billing patients.

No, Clorox and Lysol Didn’t Already ‘Know’ About New Coronavirus
Numerous social media posts falsely suggest that because Clorox and Lysol products list “Human Coronavirus” on their bottles, the new coronavirus driving the outbreak in China was already known. It wasn’t. There are many human coronaviruses, and these products were tested against a strain that causes the common cold.

Social Media Posts Spread Bogus Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory
Multiple social media posts falsely claim that the deadly new coronavirus has been patented and a vaccine is already available. That’s not true; the patents the posts refer to pertain to different viruses.

You can find all of our coverage of viral claims on the new coronavirus, and other topics, on our Facebook Initiative page. We work with Facebook to debunk misinformation on social media. Also, see our tips on how to spot false stories.

Coronavirus Resources

World Health Organization 
The WHO provides international travel advice and global situation reports, and answers questions.

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