Misinformation: the new global pandemic

I think this year we have all heard this term: misinformation. I want to talk to you about this because it has been something that has been making me especially mad these months and I believe it’s too important and dangerous to ignore.

But, first I believe it’s important to define the word itself, and who better to do this than Wikipedia:

Misinformation is false or inaccurate information that is communicated regardless of an intention to deceive.[1][2] Examples of misinformation are false rumors, insults, and pranks. Disinformation is a species of misinformation that is deliberately deceptive, e. g. malicious hoaxesspearphishing, and computational propaganda.[3] The principal effect of misinformation is to elicit fear and suspicion among a population.[4] News parody or satire can become misinformation if the unwary judge it to be credible and communicate it as if it were true. The words “misinformation” and “disinformation” have often been associated with the neologism “fake news“, which some scholars define as “fabricated information that mimics news media content in form but not in organizational process or intent”.[5]

Well, that was enlightening, as I realised I have been using disinformation and misinformation for the same concept.

So, I am sure all of you have received at any point in your life a piece of information that was alarming, not 100% believable and that was spreading like wildfire around your WhatsApp contacts. Am I right? Especially around these times. So many fake news spreading about the pandemic, the vaccine and the paper of the public institutions in all this.

And let me be clear, I am all for people having their own opinions, as long as they are sustained in believable, multiple sources. And not on one non-conclusive study from an unknown university founded by Trump. Just saying. And I get it, it’s hard and time-consuming having to check the source of all the rumours running around the internet while trying to choose what to believe but, hey, no one said being informed was an easy task.

Besides, have you heard about the Ockham’s razor principle? It says, according to Wikipedia:

This philosophical razor advocates that when presented with competing hypotheses about the same prediction, one should select the solution with the fewest assumptions,[3] and that this is not meant to be a way of choosing between hypotheses that make different predictions.

And the simplest assumption is that we are not being tricked and attacked by some worldwide evil organisation and that our governments, organisations, and newspapers, are simply telling the truth and doing their best, based on the limited knowledge they have on this new virus. So, my advice is: when in doubt, choose to believe the most official source!

We don’t know the effect the information we spread might have. Who knows, someone might grow fearful of the vaccine, and that might prevent him from the protection he needs. Or we might be unfoundedly damaging the image of governments or public institutions promoting unnecessary mistrust. What we say or share affects. Try not to be gullible, be critic, contrast information and, when in doubt, only share that information that comes from official sources.

Please be safe, and informed.

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