Links to reliable sources of information are provided at the end of this article.
It is important during the coronavirus pandemic that we keep ourselves well-informed. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation circulating, particularly online and in social media. Some of this will have been posted with malicious intent but for the most part it will be the result of genuine misunderstanding or wanting to be first with the latest rumour. It is also important to remember that even genuine information will quickly change as the situation rapidly evolves.
Information must therefore be approached with common sense, certainly apply the adage “if it sounds too good to be true it usually is”. Also consider the CRAP test in evaluating information (Currency, Reliability, Authority, Purpose). The test was developed for academics and students to assess online information but can be adapted to this situation.
How current is the information? When was it posted? Has it been recently updated? Even genuine information from the most reliable sources can quickly become dated in rapidly evolving circumstances. For example, the modelling exercises on which government decisions are based involve uncertainties and assumptions. The advice changes as more becomes known.
Is the information based on someone’s personal opinion? If it is opinion is it balanced or one-sided? Does the author offer hard evidence which can be independently confirmed? Does the author stand to profit or gain in any way (not just financially)?
Who is the author? What are his/her credentials? What do you know about the author? Is the author reputable? Is the site sponsored (including advertisers), if so by whom? We British have a healthy scepticism of people in authority and during the Brexit debate experts were often vilified. However, now is the time to take notice. These are likely to be the most reliable sources of information, your hairdresser probably isn’t. Information that comes directly from central government (.gov.uk), local government (.gov.uk), NHS (.nhs.uk), and police (.police.uk), is likely to be the most reliable. There is some good advice from charities/non-profit organisations but they should be mainstream organisations with names you recognise. Some links are included below.
Purpose/Point of View:
Is the author trying to push an agenda or particular side? Are the arguments obviously biased? Is it an attempt to sell you something? Are you being asked for money or bank details?
Finally, before passing on information it is important to take a step back. Consider the reason for having been sent something and the possible consequences of passing it on. Before passing on any online rumour, take the time to verify it. This can be done by checking how recently an account has been created, keeping a close eye on information from your local authorities, and searching key words to find another source.
Sources of information (click on the links below):