Media Literacy: even more important during a global pandemic

29 Apr 2020 10:32 am by Megan Burnside

In this era of fake news and “alternative facts,” it’s no surprise that rumors and false information about COVID-19 seem to be spreading faster than the virus itself. As the Director-General of the World Health Organization put it: “We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic.” This is dangerous because when people are stressed and uncertain, it can make them more likely to embrace disinformation. Today we’ll take a look at a small sample of inaccurate “news” currently being peddled by unscrupulous sources.

media literacy

False Hope in Tough Times

Unfortunately, there are countless companies and individuals trying to leverage the public’s pandemic-related anxieties to sell all sorts of alleged COVID-19 protections and cures, including vitamins, oils and teas. None of these alternative cures have been tested, let alone proven to be effective. There are an equal number of shady businesses selling faulty personal protective equipment such as face masks.

Stealing While You’re Distracted

During these trying and uncertain times, many people are likely to receive emails carrying subject lines such as “A Company-Wide COVID-19 Update” or “Donate to Help Coronavirus Victims.” Unfortunately, hackers are leveraging these legitimate messages for phishing emails to gain access to others’ computers. If in doubt, try to verify the authenticity of an email before opening it—and definitely before clicking on any of its links or attachments.

Social Media Exaggerations and Lies

Social media is a hotbed of COVID-19 misinformation. The examples are endless, with some posts claiming dolphins are swimming in the canals of Venice. Other bogus posts are more heinous in their intent. For instance, some are trying to fuel divisions by falsely claiming that certain ethnic groups are more susceptible to COVID-19. To help combat this, Twitter has decided to ban any information that runs against the advice of authoritative healthcare sources. Here’s a helpful article from The Los Angeles Times about how to identify fake news on social media.

Clearly, media literacy is more crucial than ever right now. Unless citizens of all nations can critically evaluate what they’re reading and seeing and make informed decisions we’ll fall short, perhaps way short, of full human flourishing on our planet. For more tools and insights into this important topic, download our new e-Book, “Building a Pathway to Trust Through Media Literacy.”

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