Yesterday, my parents sent me a link from someone who sounded well informed and was spreading alarming information about COVID-19. I’m proud to say that 10 seconds into the video, I paused it and went to do some research. Unsurprisingly, the author of the video was something of a fraud. I’m sharing here a few of the key points that raised my suspicion.
- Lack of credentials. The man introduced himself “Hi, my name is ### ####. I’m being asked a lot of COVID-19 questions that I’d like to answer through this video.” Anyone with valid credentials would have offered them right at the top of the introductions. “Hi, my name is X, doctor in immunology from the Institute of Blabla.” Or (as was the case in that somewhat fraudulent video) the person running the interview would introduce the guest and his/her credentials. If there is ONE hint that someone isn’t qualified to answer questions on a topic, it’s the lack of credentials on that topic. (In this case, it took me about five minutes to discover the author of the video was a pineapple trader and a businessman–no great qualifications to talk about COVID-19.
- The author has something to sell. In this case, the author took advantage of this opportunity to market a book he published two years ago (that has nothing to do with COVID-19, of course). Anyone who’s taking advantage of this opportunity to promote his book (ironically, on the topic of ethics) should be treated as suspicious. He’s not getting my money.
- Not citing sources. If the author/speaker makes claims, but never quotes reliable sources for the information should be treated with great suspicion. In this case, not only was the speaker not citing his sources, but he was making false claims that hardly anyone in the scientific community would agree with. A quick Google search confirmed that a significant portion of his claims weren’t false. What made him look convincing, however, was that some information was true (and well-known by the general public), which led more credibility to his false claims.
We’re all living in a new world, where false facts and misinformation has become an acceptable norm. I’d like to suggest that it’s now a “buyer beware” situation, where we all have a responsibility to validate the sources of what we consider true. Holding and propagating false information is everyone’s job, not just the responsibility of a few.
Not to sound overly dramatic, but bad ideas—just like bad viruses—can be contagious and lead to human misery and death.
You do your part.