Social media can be a quick source of information but it can also be a hotbed of misinformation. So, for people trying to get up-to-date, accurate information about the coronavirus, where and how should they be searching?
READ MORE: A look at common coronavirus misconceptions
Twitter Canada studied the Canadian conversation between Jan. 24 and March 9. The topic has been trending daily in Canada since Feb. 22 and has been a top 10 trend every day over the past week.
“Canadians are really at the beginning of this conversation,” said Michele Austin, Twitter Canada’s head of public policy, on Wednesday. “Twitter is where people come for news and breaking news and coronavirus is certainly an enormous story worldwide.”
Coronavirus is the number one most-searched topic on Twitter globally (498 million hits) and in Canada (2.9 million hits) over the past month.
Canadians are searching more than they’re tweeting — at a rate of two to one, in fact.
“Right now, people are really looking for reliable information on coronavirus and how it affects them.”
But how can people ensure the information they’re finding is accurate?
Austin suggests relying on reputable and official sources.
Some reliable sources Austin suggests people check are: the World Health Organization, the Public Health Agency of Canada, its public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam, Alberta Health and reputable news outlets.
Twitter Canada is also asking people to report any messages or links that are abusive, spam-like or strange.
“We’ve taken a lot of measures to try and make sure we’re surfacing the most reliable information,” Austin said. “If you search for coronavirus on Twitter, we’ll first send you to the Public Health Agency of Canada. There should be something called an interstitial that pops up that asks you if you’re looking for information on coronavirus and then gives you a link to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“We’ve also stopped the autocomplete on the search for the virus so that you don’t get junky, spammy results if you are searching for that information,” Austin said.
In Canada, approximately 60 per cent of the conversation is in Ontario, 15 per cent in B.C. and eight per cent in Alberta, Twitter said.
Meanwhile, another social media giant is taking steps to combat misinformation.
Facebook announced it would give free advertisements to WHO to ensure users are not misinformed about the virus.
Facebook also said it would remove any political ads that contained misinformation about the virus. It will also begin removing posts that include false claims or conspiracy theories about the virus that have been flagged by health authorities.
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