Be a responsible media consumer during this pandemic

Photo courtesy of Sierra Lyons

The term “fake news” far precede’s Trump’s presidency despite claims that he coined the term. In the past four years a lot of focus has been directed towards media outlets and the notion that their coverage is “fake news.” While it’s extremely important for media companies to be ethical and produce factual information, the responsibility isn’t solely on news outlets.

With the day-to-day increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases, new information circulates daily about the cause, treatment and development of a vaccine for the virus. The amount of information being shared through mainstream news stations like CNN and FOX and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can be very overwhelming for those trying to keep up with what’s happening. With so many vulnerable media consumers, we must have similar standards and values when we share information that we have for media companies’ distribution of news.

Social media has been a cesspool of erroneous information nearly since its inception. But we don’t have a social media precedent that even comes close to this global pandemic that we’re all experiencing in some way. A basic lesson in marketing or media will teach you how companies use fear mongering or scare tactics to gain the compliance of the public. There’s an abundance of fear tactics circulating on social media, and many haven’t realized that they’ve not only fallen victim to it but may have even shared it on their personal pages.

As media consumers, we have a responsibility to do so ethically. When sharing an article, check for reliable sources, look up the writer’s credentials, check the date the article was posted, ensure that the URL is legitimate. It may sound drastic to do all of those things before retweeting or sharing an article, but if there’s any doubt that the information in the post isn’t true, it’s worth checking. Now more than ever we have to realize the weight we carry when we share information with our loved ones. Although the responsibility of ethical news distribution should weigh heavier on media companies, it’s important to know that many individuals may be more inclined to believe what you share on your page, because they personally know you versus having no relational ties to news outlets.

The World Health Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, has been releasing situation reports every day since Jan. 21, 2020, when they first suspected COVID-19 to be a pandemic. In their situation report released on Feb. 2, 2020, they made mention of the abundance of trustworthy and untrustworthy news being circulated. The organization refers to this abundance of news as an “infodemic.”

“Due to the high demand for timely and trustworthy information about 2019-nCoV, WHO technical risk communication and social media teams have been working closely to track and respond to myths and rumours,” WHO said. “Through its headquarters in Geneva, its six regional offices and its partners, the Organization is working 24 hours a day to identify the most prevalent rumours that can potentially harm the public’s health, such as false prevention measures or cures.”

Many may have others best interest at heart when sharing what they believe to be factual information on their social media pages. But if they’re spreading false information on cures and prevention, more harm than good will be done. Not everyone is a fan of mainstream news but reading sharing reports made by WHO is much more beneficial than retweeting a photo that has no sources to back up the information.

A popular myth that has spread across the world wide web is that 5G for cellular data networks is to blame for the creation of coronavirus. Even celebrities like singer, Keri Hilson have spread that myth to her millions of followers on Twitter and Instagram.

In a now deleted tweet, Hilson warned about China’s launch of 5G.

“5G launched in China,” Hilson said. “Nov 1, 2019. People dropped dead. See attached & go to my IG stories for more. TURN OFF 5G by disabling LTE!!!”

Her management team told her to delete any theories she had tweeted out of a fear of mass information.

On Feb. 27, 2020, WHO did a Q&A specifically on the correlation between 5G and COVID-19.

“To date, and after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies,” WHO said. “Health-related conclusions are drawn from studies performed across the entire radio spectrum but, so far, only a few studies have been carried out at the frequencies to be used by 5G.

The next time you’re inclined to share a post on your social media, even if you don’t have thousands of followers, be mindful of who may be reading your post and if it’s trustworthy information. Now more than ever we must be responsible media consumers; for some it could be a matter of life or death.