Website Developers and Fake News on COVID-19: An Appraisal

It might look like the world has defeated the COVID-19 pandemic but this perceived victory is not yet total. Traces of the pandemic are still very visible across the globe with travel restrictions, lockdown measures and threats of lock down due to evolving strands of the virus. One major challenge which the world faced in the course of fighting the pandemic was misinformation from diverse online and offline sources, especially at the initial stages of the pandemic. The damaging role made by misinformation and conspiracy theories while the fight against COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak, cannot be completely ascertained. In this interesting piece, Melisa Haun provides insight on whether website builders help in the propagation of fake news, especially as it has to do with COVID-19 misinformation. This article was first posted on Website Planet.

Research: Do Website Builders Help Spread Fake News?

As the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic with lockdown measures, travel restrictions, and vaccination campaigns, misinformation and fake news are as rampant as ever – especially when it comes to coronavirus-related conspiracy theories.

This has been a problem since the pandemic began, with outspoken individuals spreading unverified information about the causes, treatments, and severity of the virus. Much of this misinformation has been disseminated online, sowing widespread distrust in scientists, researchers, governments, and public health organizations across the world.

Over the past several years, there has been plenty of debate and controversy surrounding the control of fake news online. The internet has become a battleground between free speech and protecting the public good – but where exactly is the line between these two concepts, and who’s responsible for drawing it?

We’re in the business of reviewing and recommending website builders, so we wanted to know where they stand. More specifically, we wanted to find out if they assume any responsibility for fake news that’s posted using their services.

To answer these questions, we put seven major website builders to the test in order to assess their response – or lack thereof – to COVID-related misinformation.

What Are The Dangers of COVID-19 Misinformation?

Before I get into the details of our research, I want to address the motivation behind it. There are plenty of conflicting viewpoints when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, due largely to the fact that our collective understanding of the virus is constantly evolving.

This can make it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction; who’s to say what’s true, when not even the world’s top scientists are always in agreement? Organizations like the WHO and the CDC are constantly revising their recommendations as new information becomes available. Naturally, it’s not easy to keep up with all the changes.

That said, certain narratives are objectively false. Amid all the conspiracy theories and political agendas related to the pandemic, fact-checkers have been tackling every new questionable theory that arises, and have definitively proven plenty of them wrong.

Note: If you’re ever unsure if something is fake news or legitimate information, there are plenty of reliable ways to find out. For example, you can do a search in Google’s Fact Check Explorer to see results from a variety of reputable sources. The key is to think critically about everything you read online, and to always cross-reference it with trustworthy websites. If you do that, it’s not so difficult to identify fake news.

Spreading false information – such as the idea that the virus is exacerbated by 5G, that mass vaccination is a plot to implant microchips in people, or that the entire pandemic is a hoax – is not just irresponsible. It’s unethical and ultimately dangerous. By discouraging people from wearing masks or complying with lockdown restrictions, it puts both them and those around them in danger.

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The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

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