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Expert says misinformation thrives during times of uncertainty and stress

Posted at 6:46 PM, Jun 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 09:55:00-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A lot of misinformation circulated throughout Western New York over the last 10 days. Rumors spread about violence, looting and riots that fortunately never happened.

“In these times, people are more open to accept whatever they can find online," Professor of Communication at the University at Buffalo Yotam Ophir said. "So I think it’s no surprise that we had a huge wave of misinformation around coronavirus. And now, we have a few more spikes in misinformation around the social protests."

Ophir says the spread of misinformation is not new.

"And in most cases, once the misinformation is out there, it’s really, really, hard to stop it from spreading," he said.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter do flag for fake news, but Ophir says they cannot catch everything.

So, here are his tips for social media users on how to spot misinformation.

  • Look for the primary source — examples: news article, video, website
  • Check for spelling mistakes in the URL

And if you find out you did spread false information, Ophir says to delete it and explain to your followers what was wrong with the post.