Over the past several months, it has become hard to ignore. COVID-19, or as its more commonly known, the Corona Virus, is everywhere. This seems to be true not just in a medical sense but also in an internet sense. It’s to be expected that a pandemic will be the top news story on television, radio, and, of course, the internet. That said, as the title suggests, all Corona Virus internet posts are not equal.
Some will tell you that more than 90,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide, with more than 3,000 of those resulting in death. These are facts reported on the internet by the the World Health Organization (WHO) in its March 3rd Situation Report. The unfortunate truth, though, is that misinformation also abounds on the internet. Contrary to posts seen on Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok, COVID-19 is not a conspiracy to reduce world population, is not contracted from eating bats, and is not statistically likely to kill more than 50 million people around the world. These are just a few of the falsehoods being circulated, and for that matter, these are some of the more tame ones.
Sadly, the spread of misinformation is virtually unstoppable. This brings to mind a very simple tip that I teach school age children when discussing Cybersecurity and Cybersafety: Everything on the internet is there for virtual eternity, but not everything on the internet is true. Unfortunately, the rampant spread of hoaxes and myths via retweets, Facebook shares, and other social media platforms indicates that many adults don’t necessarily grasp this simple reality.
For this reason, I’ll share the same rationale I gave to fourth and fifth graders in February. The internet is created by people. People post information on the internet. For that matter, anyone can post whatever they want. Obviously, illegalities will land you in trouble, but simply posting a falsehood won’t. It may – in very rare cases – sent to Twitter or Facebook jail, but that is the extent of the punishment. With kids, I use the example of Wikipedia and the fact that it is written and updated by regular people, every day. Specifically, I explain how it is often nefariously updated by editors (read: anyone who creates an account), with interesting tidbits such as Charlie Sheen being “half man, half cocaine” (Bored Panda). Even if you can’t reach Wikipedia editor status, you can count on one of the plethora of free and paid web hosting venues to create your own virtual web of lies.
I write all of this not to offend anyone or minimize the positive potential for information sharing the internet undoubtedly provides. Moreover, I write it to remind reasonable internet users to exercise critical thinking when they read something on the web. Just because it sounds possible doesn’t mean it’s probable. For this reason, before you share anything, take a few minutes to look for at least two corroborating sources. Most importantly, make sure they are reputable sources.
While this advice applies to anything posted on the internet, it segues us back to the topic of the Corona Virus. If you want factual information free of sensationalism designed to increase page views, stick with known, reputable sources. A few good examples from around the world include:
- World Health Organization
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- UK Department of Health and Social Care
- ES Ministerio de Sanidad, Consumo, y Bienestar Social
- CA Ministry of Health
- AU Department of Health
Granted, there are conspiracy theorists who will opine that one, some, or all governments (1) created the virus, (2) are behind the spread of the virus, (3) are intentionally inciting panic over the virus, or (4) doing all of the above simultaneously. For the rest of the non-tin foil hat wearing and doomsday prepping population, the above sources of information are what can be checked on a daily basis for real, statistically based information. In the end, staying abreast of the latest developments with regard to COVID-19 is a good idea. Sharing it forward on social media can be helpful, too. Just be sure it’s fact based. You can be sure that Cerveceriá Modelo and Corona beer lovers around the world will appreciate it.