How to spot fake news at a time of COVID-19

(16 Apr 2020) One of the key parts of the response to COVID-19 has been the fight against the ‘infodemic’ – the volume of misleading information spreading around the world. With their long-standing role in promoting media and information literacy, libraries have a key potential role to play.

Global efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have depended hugely on persuading people to change their behaviour. Ensuring full understanding of what people should – and should not – do have become an important part of the response.

This role has been made more complicated by the circulation of misleading news – an ‘infodemic’ as described by the World Health Organisation. Incorrect information about the virus and potential treatments and stories that try to create divisions and distrust risk reducing the effectiveness of efforts to stop the spread, as well as making for a slower and more painful recovery.

Libraries have long had a role in helping users become more critical and discerning with the information they find. Traditionally, these efforts have focused on students in academic libraries carrying out research, but in recent years, the need for everyone to have these skills has become clearer and clearer. This is particularly vital now.

Libraries have stepped up in response. With it clear that users often see libraries as the place to go for reliable information, many have set up pages with regularly updated, fact-checked information.

They are also promoting resources which help users build media and information literacy skills themselves – for example in Africa – and holding discussions about specific needs in the situation we are currently facing – for example through the Infotecarios blog in Latin America.

This work is essential, both in order to ensure an effective response to the virus, but also in order to counter efforts to promote censorship which may well catch legitimate expression also.

In this situation, IFLA has produced an updated version of our popular ‘How To Spot Fake News’ infographic, with an increased focus on the need to check with authoritative sources, and recognition that much news now passes through messages on social media.

We hope it proves useful!

You can download the infographic from IFLA’s publications page.