Adams discusses coronavirus misinformation on NPR

NLP Updates


Peter Adams, NLP’s senior vice president of education, talked with NPR’s Michel Martin about misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic on the March 14 edition of All Things Considered.

He began by describing the types of misinformation being spread about SARS-CoV-2, the strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19. “This pandemic has brought out a really clear picture of the kinds of things that tend to circulate in the misinformation ecosystem,” Adams said, but “more intensified and, obviously, with higher stakes.”

As an example, he added, he has seen “everything from miracle cures and alternative medicine recommendations — some of which are dangerous, most of which are completely ineffective — to anti-vaccination activists using this to push their agenda and their falsehoods,” along with “conspiracy theorists jumping in, some disinformation agents and online trolls.”

“The equivalent of taking 20 seconds and washing your hands is very much the same in the information space … investigate the source, do a quick Google search, stay skeptical.”

It’s not just bad actors, though. As typically happens when health or safety is at stake, he said, misinformation is often spread inadvertently by well-intentioned people trying to make sense of a scary and rapidly unfolding situation and want to protect their friends and family.

Adams also offered easy-to-adopt steps to distinguish credible information from false or misleading content. “The equivalent of taking 20 seconds and washing your hands is very much the same in the information space,” he said. If everyone can “take 20 seconds, investigate the source, do a quick Google search, stay skeptical, we can eliminate a great deal of the confusion and misinformation out there.”

Listen to the interview — or read the transcript — to help you and your family and friends stay well —and well-informed — during this outbreak.

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