The coronavirus is on everyone’s mind right now. Many people are finding out about it on the internet or from sharing on social networks. There is a lot of good information on the internet – but unfortunately plenty of misinformation as well.
What's more, the current state of scientific knowledge is changing on a nearly daily basis, and it is the serious researchers who are frankly stating that they can’t give reliable answers to every question at the moment.
What should you look for when using search engines?
- The order your search results are presented in doesn’t tell you anything about the reliability or the quality of the information.
- Many search engines do try to get serious information on the coronavirus into the top-ranked hits. But there’s no guarantee. Depending on your search terms, less reliable websites or advertising could still land near the top.
- Find out who is responsible for issuing the information and what sort of aims the provider of the information is pursuing.
- if the information is praising treatments that are supposed to prevent or cure the disease caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
- if the spread or the danger of the coronavirus is massively played down.
- if recommendations are given that contradict what you are hearing from the health authorities.
- if advertising for the relevant product appears right next to the article.
- if products are being sold either directly or through linked store pages.
What do you need to be careful about in social networks?
Information spreads fast on platforms like Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook. The exchange of ideas can help – but it can also sow confusion. Misinformation is something that always comes around sooner or later. So put some careful consideration into which information you believe and which information you share with others!
So check the information for consistency with the facts that you get from public organizations like the Robert Koch Institute or the World Health Organization. Professional media organizations are also often very quick to debunk misinformation.
And there are people who intentionally spread lies, for example by using manipulated images. Political groups often take advantages of crises for their own purposes as well. So take the information with a grain of salt – for example, if the reports are especially dramatic or if the blame is being placed on certain groups (for example, other countries).
How do I assess an internet website on my own?
|Who produces and finances the website?||
|Are the motives and goals stated?||
Checklist: Good websites ...
DISCERN-Online. Das DISCERN-Instrument. May 8, 2005.
Dobbins M, Watson S, Read K, Graham K, Yousefi Nooraie R, Levinson AJ. A Tool That Assesses the Evidence, Transparency, and Usability of Online Health Information: Development and Reliability Assessment. JMIR Aging 2018; 1(1): e3.
Health On the Net. Discover the 8 principles of the HONcode in 35 languages: Deutsch. November 2019.
Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany). Concept for a national health portal: Concept; Commission P17-02. August 31, 2018. (IQWiG reports; Volume 654).
Lühnen J, Albrecht M, Mühlhauser I, Steckelberg A. Leitlinie evidenzbasierte Gesundheitsinformation. February 20, 2017.
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Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. informedhealth.org can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.
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