This article offers policy recommendations for preparing region-specific real-time contingency measures for effective risk communication to combat the spread of fake news during a disaster.
The critical evaluation of the nature and consequences of fake news spread during other recent disasters is used to offer a framework for risk communication to address fake news during the COVID-19 pandemic. Already during this outbreak, mis-, dis-, and mal-information have been cited leading to an easier spread of fake news. Policy recommendations include:
- Transparent clarification and sensible dissemination of information from government websites and social media pages
- Precautionary measures for sensitive populations (e.g., low socioeconomic status, low health literacy)
- Long-term combat plans with proper monitoring of data and reporting
- Traditional communication tools to counteract fake news via word-of-mouth and online sources
- Identification of dis-information and mal-information
- Government-media-public strategy for preventing circulation of fake news
Transparency continues to be extremely important in reducing after-effects of crises. A real-time contingency plan for COVID-19 includes empowering people with media literacy and bringing structural changes aimed at preventing exposure to fake news in the first place. Individuals must rely on evidence-based science information, be mindful of where the information is coming from, and recognize who is presenting the information. Government needs to work with the public to share information via online sources, taskforce initiatives, and community forums.