The rapid sweep of the COVID-19 virus across the globe and the United States has many implications beyond health. The economy, politics, and even news media have been greatly affected. While it is challenging to discern good information from bad information, even in the best of times, the challenge is particularly acute during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Consider the newly minted term, “infodemic.” It is a handy way to think about the growth of misinformation in this unprecedented time. To get background on this, read the links below:
There are many reasons an infodemic can take hold, but here are some factors in the current crisis:
Libraries have developed tools to counter misinformation and misleading or false news and Websites. One of the most effective is the CRAAP test, which asks information consumers to slow down and measure several factors related to publishers. In short, readers should assess:
Currency: The timeliness of the information. This assessment is particularly important in a rapidly evolving situation like COVID-19, because the information changes daily and decisions we would make today to protect ourselves may be quite different than those we would have made a week ago. So ask, when was the information published or posted? Has the information been revised or updated?
Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs. This assessment gets to the question of whether information about COVID-19 is relevant to our goals. One of our goals is probably to stay safe and keep others around us healthy. When reading information about the pandemic, ask yourself whether it actually addresses your core needs. And also, would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?
Authority: The source of the information. Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor? Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given? What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given? What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the informational content. Ask yourself, where does the information come from? Is the information supported by evidence? Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge? Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion? You should go out an do additional research into the accuracy of the claims made.
Purpose: The reason the information exists. What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade? Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear? Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda? Does the point of view appear objective and impartial? Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?