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With news about COVID-19 dominating the internet, fake news proved that it can spread even faster than the virus itself. The problem lies really in the fact that with the advent of the internet, many people believe they can function as news reporters yet they neglect to check the veracity of information they share online, particularly in social media.

Research showed that people are more likely to share fake news than real news. Soroush Vosoughi, a postdoctoral associate at the MIT Media Lab and a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University, led a research that discovered “real human Twitter users are 70% more likely to retweet fake news than truthful stories.”

As more and more people use the internet to spread lies and misinformation, here are some tips to avoid being a victim or carrier of fake news, especially in this critical time.

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  • Check, check, check – Readers are encouraged to apply as many layers of filter as possible when searching online, more so when looking for medical or health information. It’s dangerous to apply a fake cure, sourced out from a fake information source, to treat a real medical ailment. Sharing fake news at a time of a perilous medical situation is not funny at all.

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  • It’s not a race – Many consider sharing online news as a race, a chance to “out-scoop” netizens when sharing ground-breaking news first to gain more “likes.” In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, netizens should realize that it doesn’t matter whether they were first or last in sharing the latest information; the more important matter is what they shared are truthful and fully verified.

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  • Develop a “truth” community – in an article on fmch.bmj.com, it advised to build a personal digital community, a “closed” group composed of “trusted” individuals who are able to control and appraise any information found in the network, where personal experiences are used to determine the authenticity of the information, especially medical ones.

There are consequences in spreading fake news. Recently, the Philippine National Police appealed to the public to “refrain from sharing unvalidated social media reports of alleged incidents that only add to public apprehensions and fear surrounding COVID 19.” The PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group will track authors of fake news, like supposed cases of “purported robbery, burglary and public unrest incidents in certain areas, which turned out to be a hoax.” It said that those who will propagate false reports, especially if committed during a national emergency, will suffer stiff penalties.

Fake information on the internet spreads like wildfire and can be further amplified by others who inadvertently help fan the flame. This is why Globe Telecom continues to strengthen its cyber wellness efforts to educate the general public on the responsible use of the internet.

In line with this, Globe is offering free data access to websites of the Department of Health (https://www.doh.gov.ph) and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (http://www.ndrrmc.gov.ph ) to encourage Filipinos to only visit official sites for news about COVID-19 and not rely on data that may not have been validated or recognized as true.

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