Have you heard about the massive lasagne being made by the Ministry Of Defence? At a time like this, when we are all glued to our phones and screens it’s hard to miss news of this size (literally).I don’t know about you, but part of me wished it was true. A huge cheesy meaty lasagne the size of Wembley Stadium being made to feed the nation at this time really would have cheered me up. Only if it was halal of course. Oh look, it’s the Muslims making Britain halal again, even during this time of global pandemic we just can't help ourselves. Now, I could easily dedicate a whole article to looking at fake news circulating about the Muslim community, but instead, I want to focus on how easily false information, inaccurate stories and conspiracies during this time of fear and uncertainty can spread.
You may think it’s absurd for someone to believe a WhatsApp message with information from a random man’s sister’s boyfriend's brother, but what if I told you I know people who believe the news circulating that Russia has released more than 500 lions onto it’s streets to ensure that people are staying indoors during the pandemic?
It’s all banter and jokes – well, I agree, the lasagne WhatsApp was extremely funny. But ridiculous sounding fake news, like Russia’s lion scare, is something else entirely. In this time of uncertainty, we are desperate for information. This makes us less sceptical and more likely to believe unlikely news. Take the London 2012 riots as an example: The British public were experiencing a time of heightened fear, anger and uncertainty and similarly many people were indoors watching TV and on their phones desperate for updates. During this time a tweet went viral about a tiger that had been uncaged by rioters at London Zoo which was left roaming the streets of Camden.
This is when social media platforms can be a blessing but also a curse. We always need a good laugh, especially during a worldwide pandemic and there are lots of positive online messages circulating at the moment too. Some sharing tips, exercises, endless pasta recipes and even posting videos for the toilet roll challenge (now I know where all the loo rolls have gone!).
Simultaneously, however, there are lots of inaccurate statistics and stories being shared including home ‘cures’ for coronavirus. If any of you tuned in last night to watch our Prime Minister’s speech, just before it you would’ve also heard about the myths that people have been adopting such as; holding their breath, making their own hand sanitiser out of vodka and even drinking cow urine! No thank you, I’ll just stick to NHS guidelines following advised practical and preventative steps like washing my hands properly with water and soap, avoiding close contact with people and staying indoors (#lockdown.)
So how can we filter through and recognise what’s real and what’s fake in our newsfeeds?
Check the source - is it mainstream news that has an accredited source? Or is it from a group chat that your Mum’s Uncle’s best friend is in?
Who’s the author? Are they verified?
Check the date - lots of headlines from the 2012 riots have been recirculating recently.
Check your facts - there are countless statistics out there which have no scientific basis.
Check your biases - often we look for articles that prove our own ideas, thoughts and feelings.
The key is to ensure that we are being careful with what we consume, as well as what we share online; we all have a social responsibility. By spreading false information, we could be endangering others whilst hampering the progress in the fight against this virus.
To sum up - big garlic bread in the Channel Tunnel? Yes please! Dodgy article from a news source I don't recognise? I don't think so.
- Zaynab Albadry, Project Coordinator at Stand Up!