“Fake news has become a part of modern day life and the ability to spot it is never more important than during a crisis like the current Coronavirus outbreak.”

Fake news has become a part of modern day life and the ability to spot it is never more important than during a crisis like the current Coronavirus outbreak. At Dalat, we require all of our students to take a class on media literacy in which they learn about news and how to spot fake news. For example, here are some of the fake news stories about the virus that have circulated to millions in the last couple of weeks:

  • Numerous fake stories regarding the number of cases and deaths in China. All of them claim that their numbers are true because China is hiding the real information. Even today a fake screen shot of a “leak” by Tencent (Chinese news site) showing the “real” number of cases and deaths went viral with many believing that now tens of thousands of people have died.
  • Posts on social media are claiming that drinking bleach can cure you of the virus. Drinking bleach can actually be dangerous so please do not believe this story. In fact you should not believe any stories about miracle cures for the virus. They will all be false.
  • Claims that the virus was actually designed in a lab and is a form of bio warfare have circled the globe through numerous posts on social media. These fake reports claim that the people behind the bio warfare come from various countries (Canada, U.S.) and some even claim that China did this to themselves.
  • Pictures and claims that China built another hospital in Wuhan in just 16 hours.
  • Claims that saltwater can kill the virus and that we should rinse our mouth out with saltwater often during the day. This fake news started in China and is now spreading quickly. This too is false.

In some cases, the fake news is a little funny and something we can easily spot. However, often the fake news is believed by many and can increase the fear and panic. And in other cases, fake news can actually be dangerous.

We need to learn how to spot the fake news:

  1. Are there simple mistakes? Are there spelling or grammar mistakes in the article or on the website?
  2. Is there an author? Most fake news will never mention the author of the article.
  3. Search to see if other articles or websites also have the same information. A simple Google search could show you if anyone else is quoting the story or including it on their site.
  4. Look at the source. Where is the news coming from? Is it from established news media?
  5. Use fact checker website Snopes or Factcheck.org to see if they have verified the story/information.
  6. Simply ask yourself, does this sound true? If there is any hint that it could be a fake, take a few minutes to research it first before spreading it or believing it.

In the coming weeks and possibly months, it will be important for us to not simply believe everything we read or hear about the virus. Take the time to check it before you spread it. And remember, don’t drink the bleach.

Written by Karl Steinkamp

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Head of School since 2006.
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