Fake information about coronavirus is diverting previous resources away from Australia’s fight against COVID-19, says Responsible Technology Australia as it launches a checklist for social media users to spot fake news.

“We know fake news is interfering with our fight against coronavirus,” said Chris Cooper, executive director of Responsible Technology Australia. “But we have no idea how much coronavirus fake news is circulating on social media right now or who it’s hitting.

“This checklist is another tool in the toolbox for the public health campaign on COVID-19 – to make sure we’re all getting the right facts on how to stay healthy and stop the spread.”

Mr Cooper said internationally there was evidence of foreign actors running deliberate misinformation campaigns, which aimed to cause panic and sow distrust about coronavirus.

“Fake news comes in different forms. There are lies circulated in good faith, or misinformation, and lies circulated in bad faith, or disinformation.

“Misinformation is a bit like old wives’ tales that are supercharged by social media. But disinformation is designed to be divisive and corrode our trust in society. This is why our checklist says people should ask themselves is someone deliberately trying to make them have an emotional response.

“Until the platforms start being open about the extent of false information being shared every single one of their users needs to be highly skeptical about everything they read on them.

“We also need to remember these platforms are not designed to serve you factual information. They’re designed to keep you engaged. Their algorithms serve up conspiratorial, outrageous and divisive content to keep us online for longer.

“All of us are capable of being misled by the dodgy content these algorithms can serve up. Whether it’s with deliberately false news, or information that’s out of date or not relevant to our lives.

“We all go into scroll mode and just let information wash over us unconsciously. We hope these tips and tricks will help people figure out if they’re being served fake news.”

Responsible Technology Australia advocates for the ethical progression of digital technology.