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Sunday, November 15, 2020

Spotting Misinformation

 In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  TwitterFacebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth.

The prospect of a COVID vaccine is ramping up misinformation and conspiracy theory.

At Nature, Nic Fleming identifies eight ways to spot misinformation about COVID, vaccines, and just about anything else.
  1. Source suspicion. Vague, untraceable sources, such as ‘a doctor friend of a friend’ or ‘scientists say’ without further details, should ring alarm bells.
  2. Bad language. Most trustworthy sources are regular communicators, so poor spelling, grammar or punctuation are grounds for suspicion.
  3. Emotional contagion. If something makes you angry or overjoyed, be on your guard. Miscreants know that messages that trigger strong emotions get shared the most.
  4. News gold or fool’s gold? Genuine scoops are rare. If information is reported by only one source, beware — especially if it suggests that something is being hidden from you.
  5. False accounting. Use of fake social-media accounts, such as @BBCNewsTonight, is a classic trick. Look out for misleading images and bogus web addresses, too.
  6. Oversharing. If someone urges you to share their sensational news, they might just want a share of the resulting advertising revenue.
  7. Follow the money. Think about who stands to gain from you believing extraordinary claims.
  8. Fact-check check. Go past the headlines and read a story to the end. If it sounds dubious, search fact-checking websites to see whether it has already been debunked.