How to Stop Being Fooled by Misinformation

Misinformation is information that has been shared and/or created without intentionally trying to cause harm but it does so because it misleads and provides incorrect information. It is different from disinformation which is deliberately created to damage or cause harm in a certain situation or to falsely boost an agenda – fake news is often used to boost both.  By virtue of the way in which social media operates very often misinformation is spread through good intentions. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns I noticed an increase in misinformation being spread and more worryingly believed on the social media apps that I use regularly.  Twitter happened to be the worst which is a shame because twitter is probably my favourite app despite its many flaws.  It was worrying because of the speed at which people amplified inaccurate updates about a very serious matter.  People often mock older social media users because it is assumed that they are easily mislead – especially in African diasporan communities – but I found that misinformation was being amplified by people who have always known how to use social media:

To be honest the so-called “WhatsApp Aunties” shouldn’t even be shamed but educated and empowered as this great piece on Black Ballad points out. We all need to be educated on the harms of misinformation across a myriad of issues.  It can arise in various ways but if we focus on what happened during the peak of the pandemic lockdowns a lot of what was being shared was rooted in fear:

Beyond the physical and psychological consequences of misinformation, confusion can trigger actions based on fear. Fear has been a palpable sensation throughout this pandemic, and is often amplified when trusted authorities promote inconsistent opinions. The Danger of Misinformation in the COVID-19 Crisis

This makes sense when our international leaders were supposed to be protecting us, more than a few were confusing us with inconsistent messaging and communications.  The impact can be long lasting as this piece reflects:

Don’t get me wrong we have all been there – I have been bamboozled by joke tweets that I took seriously for a moment before quickly realising or being reliably informed that the tweet was a joke. But a joke has a different impact to believing untrue messages about something as serious as our collective health and well-being. So how do you stop being fooled by misinformation? I attempt to explain in this video and hope the tips I offer are useful and thought-provoking:

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