Giving Compass' Take:

· Axelle Devaux explains how heightened feelings of fear and anxiety caused by the current climate has made the public more susceptible to disinformation rapidly spreading through media.

· How has disinformation taken a turn for the worst during these times?  What impact has it had on public perception?  How has it raised fear?

· Read more about addressing deception during the coronavirus pandemic.

The practice of disinformation, the deliberate spreading of false information to deceive, has been rife since before the outbreak of COVID-19. However, as a researcher who has examined this phenomenon recently in depth, disinformation about the virus should not 'infect' me—and yet, it has, at least for a few seconds.

The headline of an article Bonne nouvelle: le Champagne immunise contre le Coronavirus(Good news: Champagne immunises against Coronavirus) caught my attention and I could barely resist the urge to share it with friends. Then I wondered why. All the warning signs for disinformation were there: a picture of a magazine or journal article which was not possible to verify (neither the author nor the magazine it was published in), and the message was forwarded to me using WhatsApp, without the context that one can have on social platforms, such as Facebook. But it came from a doctor, who received it from another doctor. It mentioned 'authority organisations.'

Did I really believe that it was true? To be honest I did not even ask that question. I found it amusing. And it was exactly what I wanted to hear right after more bad news about the virus. I knew it would distract my friends for a couple of seconds from their concern and worry.

In uncertain times, emotions can take a greater role than they should in our decision-making process. While emotions are a necessary (and desirable) component of how we make decisions, it is important to be aware of these emotions and understand how they affect our choices. For example, uncertainty makes us more alert to information that could help us make sense of what is going on in the world.

Read the full article about disinformation during the pandemic by Axelle Devaux at RAND Corporation.