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Twitter Canada shares tips on separating coronavirus fact from fiction online

Coronavirus searches trend on Twitter as experts recommend sticking to credible sources
WATCH: As many people turn to social media for information on the spread of COVID-19, some experts say it can also be a hotbed of misinformation. Emily Mertz has more on how to make sure you're getting the facts.

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.

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Fear and misinformation about the coronavirus are spreading faster than the virus itself
Fear and misinformation about the coronavirus are spreading faster than the virus itself

Canadians are searching more than they’re tweeting — at a rate of two to one, in fact.

“There are twice as many searches as there are tweets,” Austin said. “I think that’s a really good [indication] that Canadians want more reliable information on coronavirus, how it’s affecting their local community and what they can do about it. And they’re also depending on people posting on Twitter who have information that is reliable about the virus.

“Right now, people are really looking for reliable information on coronavirus and how it affects them.”

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But how can people ensure the information they’re finding is accurate?

Austin suggests relying on reputable and official sources.

“That would be public health officials that are local [or] provincial public health agencies,” she said.
Dr. Craig Jenne dispels some myths around novel coronavirus
Dr. Craig Jenne dispels some myths around novel coronavirus

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.

READ MORE: Health officials urge Canadians to get coronavirus information from credible sources

‘Focus on what we truly have control over’: Psychologist talks mental health and coronavirus
‘Focus on what we truly have control over’: Psychologist talks mental health and coronavirus

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.

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“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.

Clearing up misconceptions about coronavirus
Clearing up misconceptions about coronavirus

Other tips from Twitter Canada? Check back to the events page, follow @CanadaMoments and think before you retweet.

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.

READ MORE: Facebook to limit spread of misinformation, false claims on coronavirus

Meanwhile, another social media giant is taking steps to combat misinformation.

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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.