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Frequently asked questions

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The Covid-19 Facts portal is an online platform which provides knowledge and practical tools so that together, we can increase our resilience against and fight misinformation about COVID-19. Our portal aims to support and equip people to:

  • Fact-check information and news about COVID-19;
  • Access reliable, official and verified sources of information on COVID-19;  
  • Empower themselves with new knowledge and practical tools to understand and fight misinformation.

The Covid-19 Facts portal is for everyone. It currently operates in both English and French. We are in the process of adding services in some of Canada's Indigenous languages.

The Covid-19 Facts portal was developed and is managed by the Société de l’Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick (SANB) at the request of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

The SANB is the political representation structure of the Acadian and Francophone population in New Brunswick. It’s dedicated to defending and promoting the rights and interests of the province's Acadian and francophone community.

As part of its mandate, the SANB has developed a unique expertise in the fight against misinformation by setting up and managing ExactNB, a fact-checking website which seeks to provide accurate information and tackle misinformation on the subject of Canada’s official languages, French and English. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Canadian Heritage, as part of its Digital Citizenship Programme, asked the SANB to adapt its unique tool and knowledge to fight misinformation about COVID-19.

The portal is managed by The Société de l’Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick (SANB). It’s funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage, under the Digital Citizenship Contribution Programme, which supports research on fighting online misinformation and other threats to democracy and social cohesion in Canada.

The SANB has also contributed considerable in-kind resources to the portal. Our Francophone and Anglophone partners have made both in-kind and monetary contributions to : 

Health literacy and e-health literacy are challenging skills to acquire. They are even more challenging to maintain when there is a dearth of accurate information in one’s language, and when misinformation through social media is rampant. This means that health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic may disproportionately affect certain linguistic communities. Currently, most fact-checking sites offer services in English only, or fewer services in French than in English.

The SANB, which manages the portal, is well positioned to fill this gap, thanks to its mandate, experience, constituency and network.

What is misinformation?

According to the World Health Organization, an infodemic is “an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it”. It is the contraction of the words “information” and “epidemic” or “pandemic”.

We believe misinformation and disinformation are at the heart of what makes infodemics so problematic and damaging.

In 2002, a Canadian scientist named Gunther Eysenbach coined the term infodemiology, itself a contraction of the words ‘information” and “epidemiology”. Infodemiology is “defined as the science of distribution and determinants of information in an electronic medium, specifically the Internet, or in a population, with the ultimate aim to inform public health and public policy”.

Infodemiology is therefore an intrinsic element of managing infodemics.

When we spell the words misinformation and disinformation, there’s only one difference: the initial consonant. But that one letter makes all the difference in the intention.

Misinformation is “false information that is spread” regardless of its intent. The person or people spreading misinformation may believe it or share it in good faith. Misinformation can be shared with a political objective or in “bad faith” too, but the person could still believe it to be true.

Disinformation is false information spread with the deliberate intention to mislead. It’s inaccurate or false information spread on purpose.

Misinformation can therefore also lead to disinformation.

Misinformation has many origins. It can originate from social media, from blogs, radio shows with call-ins, books of fiction and from traditional media. It can come from a neighbour, a friend, a stranger, an influential artist, a politician – it can come from and be shared by anyone! Many people unknowingly spread misinformation by sharing information that they haven’t checked, that appeals to their beliefs or creates an emotional reaction. With the exploding popularity of social media and the lack of governance of sharing platforms, misinformation can rapidly get out of hand – just like an unchecked epidemic.

Disinformation is typically created by groups and entities who have a particular aim – whether this aim is to sow chaos, to destabilize a society, or to achieve a particular outcome like facilitating an election process or fighting against life-saving vaccinations. These groups can often hire people to create social media accounts with the sole purpose of gaslighting conversations and spreading disinformation. They are increasingly using bots to share disinformation.

Tackling misinformation

Misinformation and disinformation can be very damaging to our own health, the health of others, relationships, people’s reputations and jobs, society, and the economy, just to name these.

For example, when an unproven medication is promoted to treat a disease by an influential person, people may purchase this medication and take it without understanding the possible side effects, thus risking their health and sometimes their lives. The unwarranted promotion and the subsequent mass purchasing of unproven medications by the general public can also create a shortage of this medication for the patients that need it, thus risking the health and lives of others.

Everyone has a role to play in stopping the spread of misinformation and disinformation, just as everyone has a role to play in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Why? Because many of us are the ones who unknowingly spread misinformation and/or disinformation. 

Different groups have different ways of stopping the spread of misinformation and disinformation. We all need to take action in a coordinated manner.

Scientists and researchers are conducting research into misinformation and disinformation to better understand the nature of it and where and how it is spread.

Governments fight disinformation through cybersecurity frameworks, infrastructure, services and ditigal citizenship programmes, for example. Technology giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter are starting to implement algorithms and policies to block disinformation and flag misinformation.

In the context of COVID-19, the World Health Organization has created a strategy for high-level stakeholders to manage infodemics and misinformation. They brought together hundreds of experts to create a infodemic management framework. They have a team of people who produce accurate information in digestible formats for web-based audiences and hold press conferences several times a week on COVID-19. They even have a chatbot on Whatsapp that can answer COVID-19 related questions.

In many countries, health authorities are following suit and ensuring accurate information about COVID-19 is accessible to citizens.

More and more fact-checking websites have emerged in the past few years which check claims that are made in social and traditional media. Many are owned by media companies who also offer advice and tips to the public on how to fight misinformation.

Fighting misinformation and disinformation is everyone’s business. There is a growing number of useful “how-to” articles, checklists and tips out there. The sheer amount of them and their diversity can be daunting to navigate (a mini infodemic in the making?).

This is why we created a simple step-by-step guide that’s easy to remember and can help anyone fight misinformation. When information lands in your inbox or on your feed, or if you watch it on television, you can just go through our FACTS Framework.


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