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Opinion: Protect yourself against coronavirus misinformation

FILE - In this May 1, 2018, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote speech at F8, Facebook's developer conference, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom. 

Everyone seems to take care to wear a mask in public, cough into your elbow, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water, avoid touching your face, etc., to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

But what about transmitting false and harmful information? If you come in contact with misinformation or disinformation (they’re not the same*) about coronavirus while visiting Facebook, the social media giant plans to let you know that what you are reading, liking, sharing or commenting on may be false, even to the point of harming another.

Facebook, along with Google and Twitter, are employing thousands of fact checkers to stop the spread of falsehoods about the virus.

Rolling out fact checkers

Facebook said Thursday that it put more than 40 million warning labels in March over videos, posts or articles about the coronavirus that fact-checking organizations have determined are false or misleading. The number includes duplicate claims — the labels were based on 4,000 fact checks. The company says the warning labels have stopped 95 percent of users from clicking on false and misleading information.

But can you trust Facebook?

Don’t.

Trust yourself.

Doubting can help

When it comes to unknowingly or deliberately spreading rumors, hoaxes, deceptions, lies, fake news or false reports, this is not something to mess around with.

As of Monday, there are 3,213 cases of COVID-19 in Utah and 28 deaths. Not to mention a word about people’s livelihoods and businesses.

My advice? Always be skeptical. Question what you read, hear or watch. Go to the source.

If a social-media posts says: “according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO),” go to the site and check it out for yourself.

If you need to check some information about what’s happening in Utah with the coronavirus, go to this site.

Stopping coronavirus misinformation starts with us

The responsibility to not spread misinformation or disinformation about coronavirus lies with each of us.

“Loose Lips Sink Ships,” the phrase used in World War II on U.S. propaganda posters, meant “beware of unguarded talk.”

We will return to our normal lives. But we can’t get there with hoaxes, rumors and lies spreading unchecked. Protect yourself and your friends and family with accurate information and don’t just pass along what sounds like it might be right because you came across it on Facebook.

* Dictionary.com defines misinformation as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.” And it describes disinformation as “deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda.”

Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States