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LAST October 19, an advertisement from the World Health Organization appeared on social media, warning against the proliferation of fake covid-19 information and news over the net. The impact of this false info, the WHO said, “can take on a life of its own and have some serious consequences. It can lead to health scares, false accusations and potentially damaging hoax stories.” Apparently, the moment these wrong information become injected through the internet vein and right into already-existing local beliefs about covid-19 and vaccines, “potentially damaging” seems a milder descriptor when referring to actual loss of lives.

Nevertheless, one way to spot these falsehoods, the WHO ad said, was to look for typos, such as: Do your eyes only see waht you wnat them to see?  If you have noticed, waht and wnat are actually typographical errors which seem to read as  ‘what’ and ‘want’. WHO insists that official bulletins and guidance on covid are always carefully checked before publication. 

The WHO-sponsored ad likewise warned that “some images and videos online could be deliberately retouched or edited to give you a false impression.” Alas, we may have encountered a lot of these on the popular social media platforms, which are the instigators’ main targets because of their massive clientele. 

To combat fake news therefore, the WHO has come up with S. H. A. R. E. , an acronym easy enough to remember, that could aid us in spotting them on social media. So here goes. 

Source: always check if what you’ve read or viewed comes from official sources, especially when it’s about medical and safety information. Validate these with WHO and the national and local public health authorities.

Headline: don’t be deceived by catchy headlines. They’re there to first attract but do not really reveal the whole story. Also, for content analysis, read or view up till the end. In the context of covid, make this a habit before instinctively sharing articles about coronavirus and vaccines. They might be false. 

Analyse: although this may appear difficult at first, strive to analyse whatever facts are given. However, as a means to help us, also watch for independent fact-checking services that always correct false news  about coronavirus and vaccines every day.

Retouched: in this age of layers, filters and photoshop, always beware of misleading pictures and videos esp in stories about coronavirus vaccines. As is usually the case, the intention of an image is to sensationalize, so that many might be edited for effect. Another trick is to use images and clips of unrelated events, and weave or paste them as though they were part of the article. As aid, some images can be cross-checked on online platforms like Google to see their source. 

Error: as mentioned earlier, official guidance about coronavirus are always checked carefully so that typing and grammar errors are at a minimum. 

So there. On second thought, these to-dos on detecting fake news and information on the internet have already been available years ago. However, perhaps because of our penchant for our daily dose of dopamine, they may have largely been ignored. I hope this time, we give these our attention.

While we’re at it, we might as well apply the S. H. A. R. E. to another incoming flood of junk, er fake news and info (or propaganda if you will), that’s all part of next year’s elections. What do you know, like Lego bricks, they fit also!  

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