EDITORIAL: Let's resolve to combat misinformation and lies from the fringe about COVID-19

As we near the end of the year, many people treat Jan. 1 as a day to recharge, recommit and rededicate themselves to various goals.

There are resolutions around fitness, finances and family, but perhaps we can also consider adding a vow to combat the menace of misinformation and outright lies that seem to have grown more annoying as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived.

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We have long been accustomed to Flat Earth types who have been warning for decades that a New World Order with Illuminati undertones is about to take control of our lives. Such claims continue to be made, yet never seem to materialize. Add to that roster of ridiculousness those who either believe the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax or that COVID-19 exists, but is no more dangerous than the average flu — and those who rail against the safety and effectiveness of the disease’s vaccines.

The Centre for Countering Digital Hate has created some solid advice in how the more rational among us should react to those we know who embrace the various pandemic-related conspiracy theories spreading on social media.

This includes not engaging with anti-vaxx misinformation online, even to rebut it or criticise it, because doing so only spreads the misinformation to new audiences.

(To be clear, “anti-vaxxer” refers to people who have made a conscious decision to use their online platforms to campaign against vaccines and spread misinformation about them. They differ from “vaccine-hesitant” people, which include those who are unsure whether they will get a vaccine and from those who simply have questions or concerns about new COVID-19 vaccines.)

Other advice includes correcting misinformation from family and friends privately and getting vaccinated and sharing true, scientific-based information about the importance of vaccines.

More information is online at counterhate.co.uk.

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