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6 ways to avoid spreading misinformation

With the new wave of COVID-19 underway, there is news abound. People are anxiously glued to their screens for the latest news updates. Having said that, misinformation lies in every corner, ready to spread like wildfire. With it, trolls and conspiracy theorists carry the potential to sabotage the outbreak response. What’s more, misinformation might endanger the everyday person, emotionally or physically. While both Facebook and Twitter have taken some steps to curb the spread of false information, they cannot remove all misleading content. Given that, it’s up to us to defend ourselves against false information. Below are Pacific Prime Thailand’s six strategies to avoid being misled, and to prevent yourself from spreading misinformation.

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What are the different types of false information?

As worry grows, it is very easy to share something that is false or misinformed seen on Facebook or received by Whatsapp. Sharing takes only one click, but the repercussions can be devastating. False information comes in several types. Learn to recognize them below.

  • Misinformation is false information shared by people who don’t know that it’s false, and often without thinking. By spreading information that is incorrect, you make it credible.
  • Fake news is fabricated news that is non-verifiable through sources, facts, or quotes. Think conspiracy theories, fake websites, clickbait pages masquerading as legitimate websites, and more.
  • Disinformation is misinformation created to deliberately and maliciously mislead others. Usually, it’s shared by people knowing that it’s false.

Both mis- and disinformation are designed to trigger an emotional reaction to gain an action (e.g. share content).

6 tips to avoid spreading misinformation

Misinformation has got even the World Health Organization (WHO) concerned. Coined by the WHO as “infodemic”, the term refers to an overabundance of information and the rapid spread of misinformation during a pandemic. Like the COVID-19 virus, it’s highly contagious and grows exponentially. Above all, infodemic complicates COVID-19 pandemic response efforts. Here are several ways to protect yourself and others from false information.

1. Educate yourself

Know your enemies. One strategy is called “prebunking” – a type of debunking you do before you hear myths and lies. By familiarizing yourself with the tricks of the disinformation trade, you get better at recognizing false information.

A fun way to educate yourself is to play the game, “Bad News”. Developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, it has shown to improve players’ identification of falsehoods. It makes use of the inoculation theory in social psychology. By running through obvious scenarios of how you can manipulate and spread false information on Twitter, you are inoculated against future threats. This is similar to how exposing your body to a weakened virus increases its resistance against a stronger version.

2. Recognize your biases

No one is more easily misled than those who underestimate their biases. Most people believe that they themselves are not biased, but others are. Therefore, it’s important to be honest with yourself about what your biases are.

Also, be especially critical of information from groups or people you agree with. Science states that we are all guilty of confirmation bias. In other words, we are susceptible to misinformation that aligns with and confirms our preexisting views. Keep in mind that on social media platforms, you decide whose posts you want to read. You are building an echo chamber there with both the sites’ algorithms and the people you choose to follow. To fight against this, consider different points of views and look for other sources.

3. Evaluate the source

All news outlets carry a range of biases. Check the Media Bias Chart for a news source’s political leanings and reliability. A reliable and reputable source has the following characteristics:

  • provides in-depth, authoritative, and evidence-based information
  • offers a balanced, unbiased view
  • is well-known and has a reputation of being trustworthy

Some examples of authoritative sources include established media, scholarly articles, and government reports. Note that some disinformation spreaders go as far as to make fake websites that look like real new sources.

Also, make sure that social platforms are not the only way you get your information from.

4. Think before you share

Research has shown that most people share misinformation without much thought. Most people use social media to unwind. It caters to our instinct of taking in information passively. Having said that, this is not the mindset you want to adopt when engaging in cognitively demanding tasks. An example would be evaluating whether a video you’ve watched has been tampered with.

Remind yourself of the value you place on truth and accuracy. Ask: “is what I’m sharing true?” before posting. Also, fact-check if possible. Sometimes, a pause is all it takes to give your mind a chance to catch up with emotions.

5. Be aware of your feelings

People often share things on social media because of their gut reactions. Anger and anxiety, in particular, takes the cake in making people more prone to falling for misinformation. So next time you feel like pressing the share button, check whether it’s because you are anxious or angry. Alternatively, take a break from social platforms altogether.

6. Call them out on misinformation

Publicly challenging your friends – whether online or off – is never comfortable. Nonetheless, it’s important to call them out when they’re spreading misinformation. People tend to trust other humans over bots and algorithms. This is especially the case for those in our social circles.

There are multiple ways to call someone out. With that said, an effective technique is to point out specific reason(s) why it is false. Then, provide counterevidence, such as a link. Even humor or a simple “this isn’t true” is enough to notify others to take a closer look at the shared post. In a nutshell, saying something is better than staying silent.

Last but not least, if you see someone stand up to misinformation, stand with them.

Secure expat health insurance in Thailand

With these strategies, you’ll be more mindful of the content you choose to share over the Internet.

It is more important now than ever to secure expat health insurance. At the very least, make sure that your plan includes COVID-19 insurance for Thailand. It covers expenses like the COVID-19 test cost, and more, so you won’t have to pay out of pocket.

Get a free quote today with our online quotation tool! For free tailored, impartial advice, talk to our team of insurance experts today! Pacific Prime Thailand is more than happy to find the perfect plans that balance your budget with your needs.

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime Thailand
Serena is a content writer at Pacific Prime. She aims to demystify the world of insurance for readers with the latest updates, guides and articles on the blog. Serena believes in straight-forward and entertaining educational content.

Outside of work, Serena spends her time buried in books and dreaming of her next travel destination.