We live in an age of open access to an unlimited amount of information. Unfortunately, not everything we have access to is worth knowing.
In the time of COVID-19, tools that are immensely helpful in sharing facts, promoting vaccination, and providing information about immunization events, are the same tools others are using to discourage getting the vaccines.
The only way we will ever be able to throw off our masks and return to the lives we had before the pandemic will be by wiping out this virus. And we can’t beat COVID without being vaccinated.
What is misinformation
Misinformation and disinformation are similar. They are both the sharing of incorrect information. Misinformation is usually the result of a mistake or ignorance. Disinformation is the purposeful spread of incorrect information.
Social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have been combatting misinformation by putting warning labels on certain posts, then providing links to trusted resources. They will also suspend or even block accounts that consistently publish false information.
Other channels like Whats App and YouTube are harder to monitor. Additionally, a lot of information is coming from outside the U.S. including Central and South America, and Europe. Some foreign powers have also been using disinformation about the vaccines and safety measures to divide people in the U.S. As a response, YouTube recently removed what is referred to as its “Disinformation Dozen” channels that previously promoted vaccine misinformation.
Spotting incorrect information
There are things to look for in the information shared online, on the airwaves, in print, or in person. Here are some examples of how fiction can appear to be fact:
- Conspiracies — People will argue there is some greater power behind either the spread of the virus or efforts to get everyone vaccinated. For example, the vaccine contains a microchip.
- Fake science — Using scientific concepts as the basis for misinformation. For example, the vaccine works by giving you COVID-19.
- Faulty logic — People will use arguments that can be proven wrong with reasoning. These are often called fallacies. For example, people still get COVID-19 despite being vaccinated so no one should bother to get vaccinated.
- Fear and manipulation — Using language to scare you. For example, they are deporting people when they show up to get vaccinated.
- Hate or dog whistles — Dog whistles are when suggestive language is used to divide groups. For example, Asians brought this to America.
- Lacks context — They include an element of truth without giving the bigger picture. For example, the vaccines aren’t guaranteed to keep you from getting COVID-19.
People will overplay side effects and talk about rare cases as if they happen all the time. For example, some may make a big deal about fully vaccinated people getting COVID-19. These are called breakthrough infections. They can occur, but studies show fully vaccinated people are eight times less likely to be infected and 25 times less likely to experience hospitalization or death. The majority of breakthrough cases occur in people with compromised immune systems.
Fighting back against misinformation
People trust information they get from familiar sources. Family, friends, health care experts, and community leaders are where people will often turn to get the facts. If you have that level of influence it’s important that you promote accurate information and not share manipulated, false, or misleading content on social media channels.
The World Health Organization provides a mythbusters site to address every inaccurate piece of information that’s been issued about COVID-19.
The Food and Drug Administration also has a site dedicated to the vaccines. It has videos addressing frequently asked questions, how the vaccines were developed, tested, and more information in a variety of languages.
Focus on the facts
AltaMed has partnered with the National Conference on Citizenship’s Institute for Algorithmic Transparency to launch a disinformation reporting tool, via their Junkipedia page. Click here to learn more or report disinformation using our tip lines below. Understanding and addressing misinformation in our communities is a shared civic responsibility. Do your part by reporting tips online or to the following: