Nonprofits focused on verifying facts in real time are working in overdrive to make sure that information about the Wuhan coronavirus is as accurate as it can be.
When a major disease breaks out, often there are lots of questions … and just as often, the answers leave a lot to be desired.
And with the Wuhan coronavirus, numerous nonprofits are stepping up to help fight misinformation, to clear the air, and to limit panic.
Per the Poynter Institute, nearly 50 fact-checking organizations in 30 countries—including major U.S. nonprofits such as FactCheck.org and PolitiFact—have taken to verifying information about the virus as it arises. The effort is being led by the International Fact-Checking Network, an arm of Poynter that aims to track fact-checking trends, create common standards, improve training, and advocate for more fact-checking online.
Poynter notes that many of the stories that have been debunked so far seem to be grounded in fomenting fear about the virus, its roots, and the danger it poses—along with false reports of cures. While the coronavirus does pose danger, so too does the misinformation, writes IFCN Associate Director Cristina Tardáguila, who says such rumors are surfacing in all corners of the world—including in South America, where the Brazil-based Tardáguila hails from.
“The lesson is clear: If there is no confirmation from medical authorities, do not share content about infections or deaths caused by the new coronavirus,” she writes.
These organizations, which have published more than 80 separate stories between them, are both debunking questionable rumors and making clear verifiable information. PolitiFact, also an arm of the Poynter Institute, is helping debunk specific claims on social media, some of which surfaced as a part of the organization’s ongoing partnership with Facebook.
Meanwhile, FactCheck.org, which is run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, has a Q&A on its website, laying out details about the spread of disease, limitations on travel, and the depth of the actual risk.
“It is still too early to tell how the outbreak will unfold, including how long it might last, how widespread the virus will become and the ultimate death toll,” the site states. “But while the Wuhan coronavirus is very concerning globally, for almost all Americans, seasonal influenza is a greater health risk.”