Social media have many benefits, however they have become a vehicle for misinformation. Stories are skewed, quotes are misremembered, facts are twisted. Misinformation is disrupting society, and is making it harder to tackle the world’s most pressing issues.

Cleverly designed to hijack our emotions, misinformation is everywhere. However, there is something we can do. Pause. The simple act of pausing before we share interrupts our emotional response, it triggers a moment of critical thinking.

Pause is a campaign by Verified, a United Nations initiative to encourage us all to check the advice we share.

Whether we are forwarding a message, retweeting a story or getting riled up watching a video in our feed. Before we press share, we should take a moment to pause.

pledge to pause

Credit: Pledge To Pause

In a time when thousands of seafarers are trapped on ships due to travel restrictions in breach of their labor rights, increased connectivity is seen as positive for seafarers’ mental health enabling them to keep in touch with their beloved ones. And while adequate information is seen as positive in a time of crisis boosting their sense of belonging, the increased use of social media onboard hides a red zone: dangerous misinformation.

More specifically, the stress associated with the pandemic uncertainty can be easily exacerbated through fake news, which finds a fruitful ground in the era of social media. Although fake news hardly is a new phenomenon, the critical point to consider is that social media spreads disinformation at an unprecedented speed and reaches wider audiences far beyond the traditional limitations of distance.

How to identify information:

-Be mindful – fake news will often tell you what you want to hear with clickbait headlines.

-Look around – is the website trustworthy? Check the website’s about page, mission and contact info.

-Check the sources – is any other news source reporting on the same thing? How many sources does the story quote?

-Photo search – is the news you are reading accompanied by a photo that strikes you as out of context? Run an online search, it might be your clue towards figuring out that this is an example of misinformation.

-Check the date – some news outlets re-publish old posts or promote old news as current stories. Check the publication date of the article and check if the timeline it refers to makes sense.

-Turn to the experts – go to reputable websites, such as the World Health Organization, your national health authority and the European Commission. Is the information also available there?