By Denise Ramirez, MLN communications manager
I write this blog post from my bedroom. On most days I only leave my apartment once a day, for an aimless 30 minute walk that brings the outside world back into view. For that 30 minutes, my world feels almost normal — although a bit eerie and with a few more masks than usual. A quick look at my phone or computer reminds me that it is not. With constant coverage of the devastating worldwide effects of COVID-19 and the rapidly climbing casualty count, it is impossible to avoid the severity of the current health crisis.
Staying informed about the virus is key to protecting yourself and others. Media sources, including social media, have been crucial in helping flatten the curve by encouraging social distancing and pushing for individuals to contribute to the efforts with simple actions like washing their hands. But not all media sources are reputable. While they have been a useful platform for rapidly spreading accurate information about the virus, digital media sources have also been a breeding ground for scammers to strike with everything from conspiracy theories putting Bill Gates behind the global spread of the virus to the sale of miracle immunization potions.
The large amount of Coronavirus #fakenews being circulated on social media has led to what some are calling an “infodemic,” information being spread that only worsens the issue at hand. Several prominent social media companies including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are banding together to take action, recently releasing a statement stating that they are working to “jointly [combat] fraud and misinformation about the virus.” These companies are also working closely with the World Health Organization in order to point their users towards accurate and up-to-date information.
This infodemic highlights the important role media literacy plays in all aspects of life, including during moments of crisis. Media literacy education is key in ensuring that individuals can find the real facts among all of the half-truths being shared online and beyond, especially when it can literally be a matter of life or death. As we are seeing now, media literacy is not only a matter of education — it can also be a matter of public safety.
For more information on how to promote media literacy from home, visit our resource page for parents. We also have a teachers’ resource page, if you’re an educator teaching virtually during the pandemic. For the most up-to-date and accurate information about the COVID-19 crisis in the United States, visit the CDC’s Coronavirus information page.