Fighting COVID-19 Misinformation in the Midst of Pandemic

If the sudden onslaught of COVID-19 emails, posts, videos, chats, messages and news that emerged in the last days of February surprised you, you are not alone.

“Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus, and is just as dangerous.” – Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO)Feb. 15, 2020

As the virus outbreak began its spread, business continuity practitioners and executives struggled to understand exactly what coronavirus impacts meant for business operations, supply chains, employee safety, stakeholders communication, and constituent support.

It quickly became clear there are challenges getting accurate and reliable information from trusted sources.

As a business continuity professional facing a pandemic, you need reliable and accurate information about COVID-19 in near real-time so you can make informed decisions to mitigate disruptions or initiate response.

As Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO), explained before WHO deemed COVID-19 a pandemic, “We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic.”

Dr. Ghebreyesus meant that organizations should be aware of COVID-19’s physical threats and of its informational threats, too.

Using COVID-19 as an Attack Vector

In the past two weeks, individuals registered more than 30,103 new COVID-19-related internet domains.

Consider further that rogue states, bad actors and others are likely interested in continuing COVID-19 disruptions with ill-intent such as hacking, data theft, and system infiltration.

Shielding Your Organization From Risk

If you’re an executive or practitioner responsible for crisis management and response, business continuity, disaster recovery or risk analysis and mitigation, what can you do to protect your organizations against this second assault from attackers?

One recommendation is to establish safeguards on your digital front similar to what is advised for the real world—a form of information hygiene, which you need to combat the spread of false or misleading information.

Here are some critical questions to ask in crisis and incident management settings:

  1. Is the information reliable?
    • Are facts/data clearly identified in the information?
    • Are the facts/data enough to support claims, i.e., exaggerations, omissions, etc.? 
    • Is the information current?
    • What do others (in your organization) think of the information?
    • Is the information associated with an author and/or organization?
  2. Is the author reliable?
    • Is the author clearly identified?
    • What (objectives and) “credentials” does the author have to write about the subject?
    • How long has this author published about this subject?
    • What is the author’s reputation?
    • Does the author have an advocacy bias?
    • Is the author associated with an organization?
  3. Is the organization reliable?
    • Is the organization clearly identified?
    • What (objectives and) “credentials” does the organization have to publish about the subject?
    • How long has this organization existed?
    • What is the organization’s reputation?
    • Does the organization have an advocacy bias?
    • Is this organization affiliated with any other organizations?

Additionally, here are a few reliable sources of COVID-19 information that provide timely and accurate information as the situation develops:

To flatten the COVID-19 ‘infodemic’ curve, information hygiene is essential

Crisis, business continuity, disaster recovery and risk practitioners and leaders should take care to interrogate all information they may incorporate into their work. Additionally, you should provide suitable guidance to your teams and organizations to ensure everyone is doing their part to combat threats on the COVID-19 battlefront.

Do you have questions about operational resilience and response strategies to support your business during COVID-19 pandemic? Join us for an upcoming webinar, “Ask the Experts: COVID-19 Preparedness and Response,” at 11 a.m. EST Wednesday, April 15. Take part in a Q&A panel with business resilience experts to explore what you can do to help combat the impact of COVID-19 on your organization.

Ready for some hands-on help? Let’s discuss how to best achieve your resilience goals.