It has been roughly three months since COVID-19 has become an international emergency of pestilential proportions. As infectious as the novel coronavirus is, the spread of disinformation is equally as contagious. From false claims of remedies to conspiracy theories about the virus’ origin, the public is in desperate need of truth. Prevarication spread by internet trolls is not beneficial to anyone, especially in this time of heightened anxiety.
Untruths must be uncovered, but with the vicious power of the internet, it is difficult to decipher truth from the rampant falsehoods plastered across headlines. We often fall victim to clickbait headlines and hazardous news as we are desperate for answers, seeking a source of calm in this epizootic storm of both misinformation and disinformation. We can’t protect ourselves from disinformation with a face mask or gloves, but thankfully there is an innovative new program capable of filtering the viral falsehoods as efficiently as an N95 mask.
Difference between ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’
Before I go any further, it is important to explain that there is a massive difference between disinformation and misinformation. According to Merriam-Webster, ‘misinformation’ is incorrect or misleading information that causes people to be misinformed. Once again, Merriam-Webster dictates that ‘disinformation’ is more sinister – it is false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.
Curing an “Infodemic”
There is no better time for a crucial service with the ability to verify statements expressed as facts. Infotagion is a free online-based, independent, fact-checking service for COVID-19. This ingenious new website examines information about COVID-19 that is shared on websites and other publishing platforms online. Users are encouraged to send a screenshot or link of an article to Infotagion’s website, where it will be disseminated by their fact-checking team. If the information cannot be unquestionably verified by official sources such as the World Health Organization or Center for Disease Control, Infotagion will post the article or viral thread on their website with a “Factcheck” headline. Each article is marked with a tag clarifying the key information in the article. Tags include false, misleading, true, and unconfirmed.
Aside from tagging each article, the Infotagion team will publish with the guidance as to how to proceed with the article. It’s hard to believe this vital service is free to use, so why not take the time to confirm an alarming post or article spreading fervently across the web? This incredibly essential service has been developed by MP Damian Collins, John Quinlan, Liam Harrington and Sam Regan Asante of Iconic Labs. This maverick team has recently partnered with M&C Saatchi Labs to launch a campaign called “Find the Truth. Isolate the Lies.”
Damian Collins MP and founder of Infotagion, stated, “Alongside the rise in news coverage around Covid-19, we’ve seen an alarming increase in misinformation doing the rounds on the internet, causing harm to individuals who believe these messages. We created Infotagion to encourage fact checking, and our work with M&C Saatchi raises awareness of some of the most common myths circulating at the moment, exposing them for the lies they are.”
The purpose of the campaign is to discredit false stories and advice and reframe such information as threat, focusing on truthful facts that don’t pose a danger to those who may read it. The spread of misinformation has been recognized as a global issue, and Infotagion is committed to flattening the curve of the spread of false information.
Hollywood Insider CEO Pritan Ambroase shared his thoughts on Infotagion as a crucial entity in this time of crisis, stating, “Infotagion is an incredibly NEEDED service that will help better our world during this global pandemic. Disinformation is psychological warfare and it is a disease that needs to be eradicated. Several years ago, I talked about the concept of being CLICK CONSCIOUS which is to only click on articles or links that are good for our well-being. Infotagion will help with that and specifically on our fight against COVID-19. Disinformation and misinformation kills. It is a war that humanity must win. Mass disinformation is not just the absence of truth or the opposite of the truth – it is a weapon capable of mass damage to society and at worst, human lives. Infotagion aligns with the mission of Hollywood Insider which is to focus on substance and meaning and be against gossip and scandal. Think of Infotagion as a vaccine against the ills of disinformation and deathly weaponized news. I look forward to the time when lawmakers around the world will make disinformation illegal, and it will be classified as a dangerous weapon. Until then, we have Infotagion and it is a strong start in the right and good direction. While we fight against Covid-19, let us also actively fight against disinformation on Covid-19.”
Hollywood Insider has been committed to facts since its inception, repelling gossip and scandal like oil in water. Integrity is at the heart of our publication which is why we truly feel the work of Infotagion is indispensable and benevolent- an answer to our cry for help in such trying times.
Stopping the Spread is Everyone’s Responsibility
Fortunately, you don’t need a medical degree to treat against the spread of misinformation. Some articles seem so far-fetched, riddled with peculiarities and statements that defy natural human logic. Others are a bit more rogue, peppered with facts that sound plausible, albeit improbable or vague. Rather than sharing alarming information cloaked in a trendy font, wouldn’t you rather share truthful information with your friends and family? The goal should be to share truth, not fear-based or weaponized articles that spread hysteria.
Considering the numerous other social media platforms, the amount of disinformation spread on a daily basis is unfathomable. It is truly difficult to measure the amount of disinformation spread on the internet especially when there are social media bots contributing to the precarious dissemination of false information. Social media bots may even respond to legitimate, verified news sources in an attempt to discredit the truth. The end result is a vague, questionable message that creates confusion for someone who reads it. A highly convoluted message open for interpretation is never a good thing when you are desperate for facts to calm your nerves and provide reassurance in a crisis.
If you have any questions about Infotagion’s free fact-check service, visit Infotagion.
Be sure to tag disinformation on social media with #isolatethelies
By Raquel Kokkoros
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