How to fight fake news in times of COVID-19?

The world is facing one of its worst crises during the COVID-19 pandemic. The disease would already be a problem on its own, but due to the fake news that spreads through social media, the issue becomes even more serious. Despite all the efforts made by researchers and the media to disseminate proven scientific data, people have never been so lost and not knowing who to believe. How to fight fake news? Researches by Gordon Pennycook and David G. Rand attempt to clarify this issue.

One of the first actions should come from the social media companies themselves. It is important to understand and reduce the spreading of disinformation online with all the weapons available, as the devastating effects of fake news continue to grow. New algorithms, warnings that certain headlines are false or inaccurate, hiring fact-checkers are some of the policies that can be tested, but they still need to be proven. The massive use of social networks is a recent reality and both users and scientists are still learning how to deal with its effects.

Another aspect to consider is where fake news is born and how it spreads. There is a difference between creating a lie deliberately and believing it. Researchers have not yet come to a conclusion as to why people believe fake news and, therefore, share them with their followers. Many variables need to be considered such as education, religion, political views and the social network that each one of us lives in, we tend to believe and follow what our group decides as truth and we hardly go against the majority. The creators of fake news take advantage of all these possibilities to throw their made-up theories on the internet, in an attempt that some of them gain a life of their own, because, as scientists know for sure: it is much easier to produce misinformation than it is to debunk it.

If you want to learn more about how to fight fake news, researchers from the Pennycook and Rand’s team listed a series of journalistic and scientific articles that you can check out on this website. Just like everything related to this phenomenon, the researches and their results are not yet accurate, but if the companies that control social networks show that they are seriously committed to fight fake news, the public must be prepared to be patient and not demand immediate results.


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