Avoid misinformation and disinformation

In emergencies, there is a lot of information going around. Not all of it is reliable. Speculation, rumour and false information can cause confusion, anxiety and delay emergency response efforts. Use these tips to help you spot misinformation and disinformation and avoid it.

Information, misinformation and disinformation 

  • Information is something that is accurate to the best current knowledge. One of the difficulties with any emergency event is that information changes over time as situations change and new things are learned.
  • Misinformation, on the other hand, is incorrect. Many people believe they are sharing good information – but unfortunately, that is not always the case. Misinformation can be quite harmful even if that’s not the intention. When an issue has a lot of attention, and the situation changes quickly, information can quickly spiral into misinformation. This can be done in many ways – from a well-meaning tip from a neighbour or family member, or rumour on a Facebook group.
  • Disinformation is false information created with the intention of profiting from it or causing harm. Disinformation generally serves some agenda and can be dangerous.

Navigating information before and during emergencies

Be wary of social media sources

Community Facebook pages are very popular in the NWT. However, misinformation and disinformation can also spread quickly on these groups.

If you are seeing a post in a community Facebook group, before sharing or taking it as fact, take these steps to assess credibility:

  • Check their history of posts on the group: Do they regularly post inflammatory or offensive material? Have they been debunked by group members before? These may be red flags for unreliable information-givers.
  • Check their profile page: Three potential red flags for fake social media accounts:
    • The account is very new
    • The account has very few followers
    • The profile picture is a stock image or an image of someone else
      • Use Google’s “Search by Image” function to check
        • Go to google.ca
        • Select the camera icon on the search bar
        • Upload a copy of the image
        • See whether there is a match

Assess all sources

Who shared the information with you and where did they get it from? Even if the information is from friends or family, you still need to assess their source. 

  • For websites, check the “About Us” and “Contact Us” pages to look for background information and legitimate contact details.
  • Search an author’s name online to see if they are real and/or credible. Check the URL, email address, or letterhead when you’re reading something from a new source. 
  • If you’re hearing the information in-person, ask questions. If the person does not have many details, they may be mistaken.

Look beyond the headlines

Headlines or social media posts may be intentionally sensational or provocative to get a high number of readers or get a reaction out of people. Make sure to read more than just the headline of an article – go further and look at the entire story. 

Search more widely than social media for information – look at print sources such as newspapers and magazines, digital sources such as online news sites, and official local and territorial government sources. Having many sources allows you to get a better picture of what is or is not trustworthy.

Look out for spam and unreliable websites

Six red flags to look for:

  • Unprofessional visual design
  • Poor spelling and grammar
  • Excessive use of all caps or exclamation points
  • URLs that are similar, but slightly different than those of established websites
  • URLs using uncommon domains (i.e. .biz, .info)
  • Emails that claim to be from one organization but are coming from email addresses that do not appear to be associated with that organization’s website.

Reliable local sources for emergencies in the NWT