Why We Fact-Check Health Misinformation

Why We Fact-Check Health Misinformation

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It is important to focus on the context of online social networks, which have fundamentally changed the way information is produced, consumed, and transmitted.

By Aliya Zainab

We live in a world where the reality is blurred. Facts are (intentionally or unintentionally) blended with fiction in such a way that most people get deceived easily. Misinforma­tion has become a part of everyday life. Millions of claims, like homemade remedies for cancer as well conspiracy theories about COVID, are spread daily across multiple social media platforms and traditional media.

Fact checking is a sound way by which we can distil facts from fiction. It is the best method to determine the veracity of any content – whether it’s a news item, a forwarded text message, or a video. The purpose of fact checking, essentially, is to swiftly sort out information that clogs reality from reaching the public. It helps ensure healthy communication and reliable journalism, while strengthening public literacy based on scientific proofs.

Check in time

Fact checking becomes all the more important when there is a perceived risk of spreading misinformation that can influence people’s beliefs and behaviours. Some beliefs get embedded so deep in a person’s mind that they become very difficult to change – despite sound evidence that warrants change.

Thanks to smartphone technology and social media networks, every internet user has become a broadcaster. They can spread misinformation quickly and to a larger audience, changing people’s behaviours and potentially leading them to take greater risks. Vaccine hesitancy is a pertinent case in point.

People increasingly fail to distinguish between information and misinformation, not paying attention to the message quality. It is important to focus on the context of online social networks, which have fundamentally changed the way information is produced, consumed, and transmitted.

Health misinformation, in particular, could lead to severe illness or even death, as seen in the case of COVID-related misinformation. Similarly, a misleading health claim has the potential to erode society’s trust in the healthcare system and medical practitioners. How do we maintain a credible information environment in such scenarios?

At First Check, a verified signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), we focus on four key aspects:

Providing reliable information
In collaboration with doctors, researchers, journalists and technologists across the globe, we provide reliable health information based on credible sources.

Fostering an environment of trust
When misleading claims threaten to erode public trust in science and medicine, First Check members take pro-active measures to support a sense of community based on trust.

Preventing catastrophes
By debunking misleading health claims with careful research and expert inputs, we help fight the rise in misinformation. If left unchecked, health misinformation can lead to serious consequences.

Empowering readers
Unless we are committed at an individual level to tackle the misinformation, we cannot win this public health battle. The next time you come across a viral or contentious photo, video or text, ask yourself one basic but essential question – Is this claim true?

Stay informed.
With First Check.

You can mail us at hello@uwsi.firstcheck.in or WhatsApp us on +91 9311 223145.