Separating Fact from Fiction Amid COVID-19

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Post by Ada
Librarian, Information Services

In these uncertain times, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by constant updates about COVID-19, especially when it feels like there’s a lot of contradictory information. Now, more than ever, it’s important to make sure what we’re reading is accurate. 

We probably all have that one Facebook friend or neighbour who shares questionable information. But how do we really know what information to trust?

That’s what this blog post is all about. Follow these steps to help separate fact from fiction:

1. Find reliable sources

The first place we should look for accurate information is through verified, legitimate channels such as government websites and scientific organizations. A few great places to start are websites from the Region of Waterloo, the Ontario Ministry of Health, the Government of Canada, the World Health Organization and Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre

And of course, ask us! Staff at Kitchener Public Library are experienced and trained to help you find accurate information. That means you can ask us anything, and we will use our resources and skills to find you an answer! You can email us at askkpl@kpl.org or send us a message through Facebook. 

2. Stop and think

When you hear or read something new, take a moment to think. Does it seem real or possible? Pause before sharing something or passing it on to someone else.  Investigate further if you need to. 

3. Check the source 

Check where this information came from. Who wrote it? Who said it? What kind of experience or credentials do they have? Is it from a news source you trust? When was it written or first shared? Something from 2011 might not be relevant to what’s happening now. 

4. Read past the headline

Headlines are designed to grab your attention, but sometimes they may exaggerate or mislead. Is the headline surprising? Read further to better understand what is going on. 

5. Be cautious of emotional stories

These are the stories that often get shared quickly and widely because they appeal to our emotions. Even if a story is compelling, take a moment to think about how the information that is being shared. Is it accurate? Can it be verified? This is a time when people are anxious and desperate to find answers, so pay attention to what might be drawing people to the story. 

6. Filter the flow of information

Consider checking your trusted sources a limited number of times each day. Take control of what content you consume and how much you’re consuming. This practice can also help your mental health! 

7. Use resources to verify

Use myth-busting websites to see if a particular piece of information has been vetted or debunked. Snopes, a fact-checking website,  has a page devoted to Fact-Checking COVID-19, and the World Health Organization has a list of Myth-Busters for the public too. You can also try these sites: Facts Canada, Politifact, or SciCheck.


We hope these resources will help you find the right information during this difficult and confusing time. For further reading, try these websites:

We have also created the infographics below as a handy reminder to help you spot fake news. Please feel free to save and share them!

Keep safe, healthy and informed.

FAKE NEWS. What is Fake News? how do you identify it? Fake News is any media that shares intentionally false or poorly researched information. 

False information can spread quickly on social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter). When you share Fake News, you are promoting it, so it is important to read and evaluate first, so that you know what you are supporting. Spotting Fake News or the reason it exists is not easy: it is often for financial gain or to spread a particular opinion.  If the answers below are mostly "No",  it is likely Fake News. Date: Is it recent or are there updates noted? Are there current sources and links? Author:  Does it have a listed author? Is there contact info for the author? Is the author an expert in their field? 
Does the author have obvious bias? Publisher: Is the presenting platform credible? For websites: is the URL a .org, .gov, .edu? Is the host publication ad-free? Is the purpose of this piece to share info? Review: Is this an original source? Are other sources listed? Is it free from spelling mistakes? Has this been peer-reviewed?
Find Reliable Information. Question the media. Check the facts. Share the truth. General Search tips: Avoid bias: use general terms or open questions, repeat searches with different engines and terms, look for clear, legitimate titles and web addresses. Searching the internet: Use the internet for up to the minute information, Look for information from a specific source, Evaluate the facts for yourself, Know that top search results are often paid ads. Using Databases: Use databases to find trustworthy articles, Use filters to search by item type or date,
Articles are often already peer-reviewed, Free access through the library: kpl.org/databases. Fact checking websites: www.snopes.com
www.factcheck.org
www.politifact.com
www.factscan.cawww.leadstories.com
www.checkyourfact.com
www.sciencefeedback.co
www.tineye.com