Health Minister Chris Hipkins has led the charge in urging people not to believe everything they read on social media regarding the Covid-19 crisis. Netsafe and firstdraftnews.org have long been warning against accepting misinformation as fact. Their advice includes:
■ Be sceptical of everything you read. Ask yourself, who posted it and why? What expertise do they have? Are they writing about something they witnessed or are they passing on hearsay?
■ Do some fact-checking (e.g. on fact-checking website snopes.com) and find out where the original post came from. Was it a reputable website or an anonymous Facebook page or fake account?
■ What else has the source shared in the past? Do they have an agenda?
■ Does the post use sensational, inflammatory or divisive language?
■ If an image is used, has been altered? Is it trying to get your attention or manipulate your emotions?
■ Fake news often claims the media/government/unnamed groups are trying to suppress a story, and urge you to share it ''to get the truth out.' That was the case with last weekend's post about the woman who tested positive for Covid-19, whose author has now reportedly admitted making it up.
■ Misinformation often claims to come from a source close to the government/a doctor/someone high up in the police. Be sceptical if the source isn't named. If the source is named, check if that person really exists, and if they really said what's claimed.
■ Recognise your own emotional responses. We're more likely to share a post, or skip fact-checking, if it aligns with our views. Ask yourself, am I being played?
■ If you're not sure a post is true, don't share it.
■ Report misleading posts, scams and fake accounts to Facebook (click on 'report post') or, if it's in a group, the page administrator.
Netsafe and firstdraftnews.org say a constant flood of news and social media posts can be overwhelming and lead to a sense of helplessness. Ways to reduce stress include:
■ Seek out places online where you can pick and choose what you read (e.g. news sites) rather than places where information comes at you non-stop (such as social media). That may give a greater sense of control.
■ Take regular tech breaks, e.g. by avoiding computers and phones for one day a week.
■ Remind yourself you won't miss anything critical if you switch off for a day. The news will still be there when you log back on.
*Sources: Netsafe, firstdraftnews.org