Pin It
Photography Dimitri Karastelev,via Unsplash

How to stop the spread of coronavirus lies and misinformation

Inflated stats, hysteria, and misinformation are spreading faster than the disease itself – here’s how to combat the influx of falsities

This week saw the world to descend into full-blown panic over coronavirus, as the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic, an estimated 125,000 cases were declared globally, and health officials encouraged people to practice social distancing, resulting in a slew of closures and cancellations. But there’s one thing spreading even faster than the disease itself, and that’s the deluge of misinformation surrounding the virus. 

Take a cursory scroll through your timeline, and you’ll notice that it’s inundated with people weighing in on the virus with hot takes, news alerts about the latest closures, and information about the spread of the disease. While sharing important logistical information online can be extremely useful – not to mention creating a sense of solidarity at a time when it feels like we’re collectively entering the Twilight Zone – there’s a temptation to share things we ‘learn’ right away, without fact-checking.

Because apps like Facebook and Twitter are designed to make content go viral, it’s often the case that the most attention-grabbing posts will gain the most traction online. On Twitter,  one newspaper columnist asserted that the new coronavirus “doesn’t infect children” – a claim that could have lead people to make fatal decisions. 

One Facebook post shared more than 300,000 times made several dangerous claims, including the “advice” that a runny nose means you have a common cold – not COVID-19. The surge of misinformation has been so endemic, that Facebook has agreed to give WHO as many free ads as they need for their coronavirus response (the least they can do, considering their hefty contribution to the spread of fake news). 

With the lack of national leadership over coronavirus, monitoring our behaviour online to ensure that we are not stoking fear around the disease is more important than ever. So before smashing that RT button, and spreading more coronavirus lies, here are some things you should consider. 


When you hear something about coronavirus, make sure it’s coming from a verified source. This does not include an ‘uncle with a master’s degree’ – the source of a viral Facebook post that was shared over 370,000 times, which amplified potentially dangerous claims at the time of the disease’s outbreak. Even if the information is coming from someone with more authority, such as a friend who works in Public Health England, or a friend in the mayor’s office, it’s still important to be cautious. Considering that the president of US is very much active in spreading these lies, we should know full well that even those in positions of power are not to be wholly trusted. 


If you have received information from a verified, reliable source, it’s still important to interrogate it. If it’s a message forwarded to a group chat from a friend, get in touch with that friend and ask where they received it from. Make sure your not just another victim of chain mail and be wary of trolls weaponising the virus.

Last week (March 7), UNICEF Phillipines issued a warning about fake information spreading via chat apps, from a source claiming to be them. So, if you receive a message from a source proclaiming to be an official body, it’s still worth being sceptical and sticking to the information on their website and official social media accounts. 


In some instances, Google is your friend, allowing you to find out quickly if a claim you’ve seen elsewhere has already been debunked. Fact-checking websites like have silenced conspiratorial whispers on social media that the coronavirus was cooked up in a secret government lab in China. The WHO organisation has rubbished claims of gels, liquids and powders that immunised against the virus. And, dispelled an elaborate conspiracy theory related to Dr. Charles Lieber, a Harvard scientist recently arrested for selling laboratory knowledge to the Chinese government. In the UK, Full fact are leading the fight against coronavirus misinformation, disproving the claim that children are immune to coronavirus, and satellite images claiming to show evidence of mass cremations in Wuhan.


If you’re a member of the public in the UK, you can find medical guidance on coronavirus on the NHS website. You can also sign up to alerts on infectious diseases on 

In the meantime: Stay! Calm! and read our guide on how to deal with coronavirus anxiety here.