At a time when most of us are looking for updates and helpful information on the novel coronavirus, anyone with a smartphone would do well to be sceptical about anything coming in by email or messenger app.
That’s because there are already countless misleading and fake messages purportedly explaining how to protect yourself against an infection, recognise symptoms of the disease and respond if you have the virus.
Internet security experts say your alarm bells should be ringing if you see a message claiming there’s a ban on work or telling you how to test yourself for infection.
State and health officials in several countries have been forced to respond to information circulating on WhatsApp about things such as the efficacy of ibuprofen and planned army measures. Chain mails have similarly fuelled uncertainty, often spreading at a rate faster than the virus itself.
Fake news appears to have been spurred by people’s heightened demand for information, addressing emotions and fears and being structured in such a way that they do not appear unrealistic, say the security experts at Germany’s DsiN online safety campaign.
The advice now, as ever, is to read, listen and watch supposed news stories with common sense. You’ll quickly notice with such messages that concrete information is missing and that the sourcing is unclear.
Another important lesson is that you should not forward messages or emails unless you are absolutely certain the information is reliable.
If a message seems suspicious, the experts suggest a quick search to see if known, trustworthy media sources have also reported on the same issue.
If you’re reading about something dramatic on WhatsApp, chances are that local media have already reported on it. If they haven’t, it may not be reliable information. If you know something to be fake, it’s good to inform whomever sent you the message. – dpa