Our take: follow the facts, not the fakes

The pandemic didn’t just teach us that pineapple beer was a thing. 😆 It also put disinformation and misinformation in the spotlight – from fake Covid-19 news doing the rounds to conspiracy theories around vaccines (do we need to remind you that Bill Gates is NOT using vaccines to track you?). 

Take, for example, former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. He recently claimed that he cured a couple of HIV/Aids by praying. It’s not the first time he’s made such a frankly dangerous claim: last year he said that if any vaccine was “of the devil”, it should be destroyed in God’s name. 👀 Having faith is not synonymous with poo-pooing science and Mogoeng was taken to task for his comments. It’s deeply damaging when prominent, influential figures with powerful platforms make misleading statements. It also increases the risk that the public will believe false information and eschew life-saving interventions. 

That’s why, as The Wrap goes on a break for a few weeks, we thought we’d leave you with these handy tips about questions to ask when you receive a message from that estranged uncle about how bad things are in South Africa or from the cousin who only spews conspiracy theories. With thanks to Africa Check, here’s how you can separate fact from fiction: 

  1. Who wrote it?
  2. Can you verify the claims with supporting links to sources?
  3. Does the information make you feel scared or angry? These messages and warnings often prey on our emotions so we’ll share the information with others. Don’t do this without ensuring it’s real.
  4. Be careful of messages that include shocking images, pictures or audio as these could have been edited or taken from a different time to trick us into believing fake news. 
  5. If you’re still not sure, check online to see if the message is true or has been flagged as fake news. You can use sources like AfricaCheck.org or Snopes.com to verify your information. 

Stay safe out there on the social media streets, fam! 😉

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 15 December 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.