The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday August 18th

Column: Wash your hands, stay six feet apart and fact-check your sources

<p>Sonia Rao, assistant City &amp; State editor pictured on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020.&nbsp;</p>
Buy Photos Sonia Rao is The Daily Tar Heel's City & State editor.

The OC Voice is a portion of the OC Report newsletter where local residents may have a platform to talk about local issues they care about. Sonia Rao is an assistant City & State editor and a campus correspondent for the MediaWise Voter Project run through the Poynter Institute that helps college students tell fact from fiction online. 

What a time to be alive. 

As a young, doe-eyed first year at UNC walking into my dorm for the first time, I never expected my year to end with me living at home, taking online classes and hiding in my house during a global pandemic. 

In a time like this, in addition to engaging in the act of social distancing, it’s incredibly important to be informed and be able to read the news in a media-literate way. 

Misinformation and disinformation are already rampant on social media. In fact, almost 50 percent of college students don’t fact-check before sharing a post, according to a survey conducted by Project Information Literacy. And coronavirus-related rumors are spreading left and right. 

I see them almost everywhere I look. I’ve heard my friends and fellow UNC students tell me they can’t have coronavirus because they don’t have any symptoms. 

I’ve watched them gather in large groups on social media because they’re young, and therefore believe they are invincible to the virus. 

I’ve heard people tell me stories of how their parents are rushing to the grocery store to buy as many cans of non-perishable food items or rolls of toilet paper as they can in wake of many counties and the state itself issuing stay-at-home orders

Just this morning, my grandma sent me a WhatsApp message about the “cure” to coronavirus. According to her, if I drink a hot tea with lemon juice and baking soda, I’ll be immune. 

All of these assumptions are false. Young people can get sick, people can carry the virus without showing symptoms and grocery stores in the state remain open even during the stay-at-home order. And sorry grandma, but the cure to coronavirus definitely can’t be found in my kitchen. 

So, how can one become more aware of whether the information they are reading on the Internet is true or false? 

There are three fundamental steps to fact-checking information, according to the Stanford History Education Group. You should always consider: 

  1. Who is behind the information? 
  2. What is the evidence?
  3. What do other sources say?

Some of the biggest threats behind fake information are memes and miscaptioned images, manipulated videos and fake local news sites. Be especially careful to fact-check information coming from these sources. 

A good way to make sure the information you’re reading is legitimate is to read laterally. It’s as easy as opening up a new tab and using keywords to verify information with a variety of sources before sharing.  

Don’t want to fact-check yourself? Another great source is this Google Fact Check database that has compiled almost every fact check done about a subject. 

As someone who is used to staying busy, I don’t know what to do with myself in self-isolation. This could be a great time to learn a new skill, such as learning how to fact-check and be media literate.

Just remember: Wash your hands, stay six feet apart from other people and always fact-check your sources. 

If you live in Orange County and want to make your voice heard on something you care about locally, email city@dailytarheel.com. 

@sonjarao

@dthcitystate | city@dailytarheel.com

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