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Coronavirus: Government campaign to combat fake news about outbreak and symptoms

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Being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds is not an indicator of whether you have coronavirus or not.

Nor is gargling water for 15 seconds a cure.

Paymaster General Penny Mordaunt has warned against fake news
Paymaster General Penny Mordaunt has warned against fake news

These, and other nonsense claims on social media, were outlined by Penny Mordaunt, Paymaster General, in advance of a Government crackdown on fake news.

A public information campaign is to relaunch next week to combat phony facts about the pandemic.

It comes as the Cabinet Office reveals its specialist units are tackling five to 10 incidents a day.

The onslaught against false and misleading narratives seeks to ensure the public has the right information about how to protect themselves.

The Rapid Response Unit, operating from within the Cabinet Office and No10, says fake information online ranges from misinformation from purported ‘experts’ to fraudsters running phishing scams.

Phising scams are a concern
Phising scams are a concern

On Monday, residents not to click on text links threatening fines for breaching 'stay at home' restrictions.

Police confirmed fraudsters are 'spoofing' the government's address in order to access personal data and financial information.

The ‘Don’t Feed the Beast’ public information campaign will relaunch next week, to empower people to question what they read online.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "We need people to follow expert medical advice and stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. It is vital that this message hits home and that misinformation and disinformation which undermines it is knocked down quickly.

"We’re working with social media companies, and I’ll be pressing them this week for further action to stem the spread of falsehoods and rumours which could cost lives."

Social media sites such as Facebook are being asked to remove phony posts
Social media sites such as Facebook are being asked to remove phony posts

Some of the measures taken to crush phony posts can include a direct rebuttal on social media, working with platforms to remove harmful content and ensuring public health campaigns are promoted through reliable sources.

The unit is one of the teams feeding into the wider Counter Disinformation Cell led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, made up of experts from across government and in the tech sector.

The Cell is engaging with social media platforms and with disinformation specialists from civil society and academia, to establish a comprehensive overview of the extent, scope and impact of disinformation related to coronavirus.

The Culture Secretary will be contacting social media companies this week to thank them for their efforts to date, assess progress made and discuss what other potential measures can be put in place to ensure accurate, honest information consistently reaches users.

Penny Mordaunt said: "Government communicators are working in tandem with health bodies to promote official medical advice, rebut false narratives and clamp down on criminals seeking to exploit public concern during this pandemic."

"The public can also help with this effort, so we implore them to take some simple steps before sharing information online, such as always reading beyond the headline and scrutinising the source."

To help stop the spread of potentially dangerous or false stories circulating online, government guidance advocates following its ‘SHARE’ checklist.

Guidance includes basic advice such as checking the source of a story and analysing the facts before passing them on:


Make sure that the story is written by a source you trust, with a reputation for accuracy. If it’s from an unfamiliar organisation, check for a website’s ‘About’ section to learn more.


Always read beyond the headline. If it sounds unbelievable, it very well might be. Be wary if something doesn’t seem to add up.


Make sure you check the facts. Just because you have seen a story several times, doesn’t mean it’s true. If you’re not sure, look at fact checking websites and other reliable sources to double check.


Check whether the image looks like it has been or could have been manipulated. False news stories often contain retouched photos or re-edited clips. Sometimes they are authentic, but have been taken out of context.


Many false news stories have phony or look-alike URLs. Look out for misspellings, bad grammar or awkward layouts.

Further details can be found at www.sharechecklist.gov.uk.

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Download the new IM News app today to get trusted news (32722389)

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