The fight against misinformation

The threat of a potentially deadly virus is very scary but verifiable information is the light in the tunnel of fear. As librarians we are concerned with the misinformation spreading about Coronavirus and feel compelled to share with the community some reputable sources of information as well as some tips for discerning between reliable and unreliable information.

Women wearing surgical masks during the influenza epidemic, Brisbane, 1919; John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland; Negative number: 108241

This map is visual representation of the spread of Coronavirus. While we do not, in anyway, wish to minimise the passing of those who have been killed by the virus - it is important to note those who have recovered more than double those who have died. This site has been created by John Hopkins University in the United States with data from the World Health Organisation (Global), The Centre for Disease Control (USA), European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and National Health Committees (China).

Some other reputable sources of information about the spread of the virus include World Health Organisation, ABC News, or CSIRO. If you need to find out what this means for us here in Queensland then Queensland Health is a good place to start. Information about travel and travel warnings is best sourced from the Health Department (federal) or the World Health Organisation.

Your local or state library (such as us!) may also have access to a health or medical database. Information here is academically rigorous and peer reviewed. In the case of State Library we have access to many interdisciplinary databases that include medical research as well as a dedicated Health and Wellness database.

Tips on how to tell if the information you’re seeing is reliable (these tips relate mostly to those sourcing their news through social media because this is such a common practice and where the most misinformation is spread):

  1. Does it sound real? Posts claiming to have information from the ‘Department of Diseaseology Parramatta’ have spread misinformation about Coronavirus. This is not a real place or a real discipline
  2. Always click through to the source information – headlines are not reliable information
  3. When you click through to the source information does the website seem credible? Does the logo match to what you’ve seen before? Does the web address look logical (have some natural language that you would associate with the site, if government does it have “.gov.au” at the end)?
  4. If your source is a newspaper – are they telling you where they got their information from? Does the newspaper or journalist have other affiliations that might affect their bias? You can google them if you are not sure.

It can be a lot of work to recognise an unreliable source but the more you are able to look critically at your news sources the better and easier it will become.

It is important for society to be able to be able to shine a light on misinformation and think critically about news because in the darkness of fear it is easy to turn on marginalised groups with blame.

I believe ANU said it best, “This is a distressing time for many of us, but it is important we look after each other. Viruses don't discriminate and neither do we.”

Leela Wittmer, Librarian
Information Services

More information

World Health Organisation
CSIRO
Queensland Health
Health Department (federal)
Databases
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You quote the WHO as a credible source of information. You must be joking .....they are THE source of the Bullshit.
Please if this is type of organisation you rely on for "credible " information you can kindly remove me from your email list
Regards Ron Kelly