Aside from Covid-19, the world is also battling a fast-spreading “infodemic” and health experts are calling on the public to practice “good information hygiene” against all kinds of false information, especially those related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Nina Castillo-Carandang, a member of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group, said the spread of the Covid virus is slower than the virus of misinformation and disinformation. False information, gossip and hearsay spread faster than the truth.
An infodemic is defined by the World Health Organization as “too much information, including false or misleading information, in digital and physical environments during a disease outbreak.” This can lead to mistrust in health authorities, undermine the public health response and intensify or lengthen outbreaks.
False information regarding the outbreak ranges from discrediting the threat of Covid-19 to wild conspiracy theories, like vaccination could turn people into zombies.
Carandang compared washing hands as protecting from the coronavirus to taking the effort to filter information. She encouraged the public to practice the 4-step “SIFT” process to fight false information:
Stop if you are feeling strong emotion, an urge to share or surprise.
Investigate the source.
Find better or alternate coverage.
Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context.
As with a pandemic, ignoring the infodemic will not make it go away. Good information hygiene is our first line of defense against the flood of false information that is being spread by social media, one of the most virulent carriers of the disease.
Building this habit will help us navigate not only the pandemic, but life in general in a world where the increasingly selective information provided by paranoid governments and irresponsible public officials needs to be sifted and scrubbed before it can be deemed safe for personal consumption.*