The Truth Behind 'Fake News'
This pseudo-reality is also present from a medical perspective, whereby diets, recipes and products are being promoted as cures for everything from wrinkles to cancer. Some appear to be backed by science, but are in fact ‘pseudoscience’. Some high profiles examples include:
- Following the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan in 2011, stores in China sold out of table salt due to the incorrect belief it protected against radiation (CNN 18 March 2011).
- During the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, people died after drinking salt water, thinking it could cure the disease (WHO 15 August 2014).
- In 2015, when South Korea was confronted by a large outbreak of MERS-CoV, North Korean scientists claimed to have created a vaccine derived from ginseng which could treat SARS, Ebola and MERS-CoV(ABC News Australia 20 June 2015).
- The numerous oils and “natural” products which are said to prevent mosquito bites and malaria have found a new market in those seeking to ward off Zika, although they don’t live up to these claims.
Filling time and space
Filling time and space can not only exaggerate certain stories but can lead to a false equivalence. For example, the headline on a Monday could be “Country X coup topples government” and then the headline on Tuesday could be “Country X immigration policies cause cancer”. Someone reading both headlines may be immediately concerned about their welfare, yet unclear of what actions to take. Therefore, we recommend evaluating news independently and getting advice from a reliable source is critical in mitigating risk for an organisation.
Understanding these contexts and validating the information you receive based on the location you’ll be travelling to with a reputable source, is vital in understanding the real impact.
Six Questions You Need to Ask
- Does the source clearly identify who they are? Is there a contact address and telephone number? Be wary of anyone that doesn’t give a physical address or a number you can call to ask more.
- Is the source an established institution, government agency, or reputable organisation? Often information has gone through a vetting procedure before it’s been publicised. These groups may have a minimum or even best practice standard to follow, and a reputation to uphold. They may be held to account by regulatory bodies if they fail to meet requirements.
- Does the information point to robust reference sources? Providing references makes independent verification easier.
- Is there a feedback mechanism? Organisations that care about their audience’s opinion want to hear from you, both the positive and the negative.
- Is the information too good to be true? If a cure has eluded everyone else, be sceptical! There are several websites where scams can be reported e.g. http://www.quackwatch.org/, https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/ or https://www.usa.gov/scams-and-frauds
- Run the information past a trusted expert advisor. They should be able to give you the background consensus opinion, and if they haven’t already researched the new information you are presenting, they can bring in their network to get the facts.
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