A slew of misinformation has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic. False claims about how the virus spreads, how it can be prevented and steps that governments are taking have been making their way across the internet. Stopping this spread of misinformation is no easy task when it’s shared rapidly across social media sites and through forwards over WhatsApp and other text messages, sowing confusion and panic with people even going so far as setting telephone poles on fire after fake information spread that 5G is causing the virus. So, what can local health departments and public health organizations do to combat this spread of misinformation and make sure the public has up-to-date, accurate information about the pandemic and other crises? Here are three best communication practices.

Provide a Single Source of Information

Misinformation has been coming from all over the place and often been falsely attributed to healthcare workers, international organizations, first responders and other public officials. Take the fake images circulating false information about how to prevent the virus that were purported to be from UNICEF and fake notices supposedly from police departments warning residents that people knocking on the door for virus testing were actually robbers (you can view a comprehensive list of misinformation that’s been spread and debunked here). One way to combat this: set up a single place where people can check for information. That way if the information isn’t coming from that single source, the public knows it isn’t legitimate.

Keep the Facts Simple

Part of the reason that a lot of this misinformation spreads so quickly and effectively because they’re presented in a simple, easy-to-understand way that make sense to the reader. Use those same tricks when presenting factual information about the pandemic. Avoid scientific language and put it in terms that everyone can relate, too—and include simple images and graphs so that readers can visualise the statement. Also, avoid repeating misinformation even when you’re trying to set the record straight – repetition can make the misinformation stick in people’s heads and feel more real.

Make It Easy for People to Access the Right Information

Misinformation spreads quickly in part because it’s right in front of people’s faces, whether on social media or in the form of a WhatsApp or text message. Make factual information is easy to access to counter the misinformation, whether in the form of a website that people can keep an open tab on their browser or an option for people to opt-in to get regular updates about information on the pandemic over message or email. This makes it simple for people to stay informed without having to do any extra work to make sure the information they’re receiving is accurate.

These three best practices can help stem the flow of misinformation that’s been accompanying this pandemic. Vaporstream supports these practices with our secure messaging app that makes it easy to regularly update people who have opted-in during a crisis. Vaporstream makes it easy to broadcast information to large groups of people. You can even automate your messages and segment them based on your audience and recipients can easily directly respond to you if they have any questions or concerns. Vaporstream’s content control means that any message going out only comes from you – guaranteeing that the information is valid and accurate. Learn more about how you can use us to communicate here.