In this ever-evolving media landscape, we are more prone than ever to consuming misinformation and it is imperative that we are able to learn ways to notice and flag information that may not be real or fabricated. On February 3, 2022, Reuters Fact Check published an article titled “Fact Check-Nigeria destroyed COVID-19 vaccine doses because they had expired.” In the article, they explain that a video on social media had gone viral showing a bulldozer in Nigeria dumping boxes of vaccines into a landfill. Anti-vaxers had taken this video and used it as an example that America should follow in their footsteps. However, this video had been completely taken out of context and is a blatant misrepresentation of what really occurred. In fact, the video was showing that the 1 million vaccines donated to Nigeria had expired and the dumping of the vaccines was to assure the public that they had been taken out of circulation. The true story can be read on the Reuters Fact Check article from December 22, 2021. So the misrepresentation continues because they used an incorrect date for the video as well to support their false claim that Nigeria was against the vaccine. In Reuters process to verify the information they had found also produced a more recent article in January 2022 that further supported their claim that the video and its sharers were incorrect by sharing that “More Nigerians take up COVID shots after expired doses destroyed.” In this, they followed up with health officials to confirm that in fact, Nigerians were more willing than ever to receive the vaccine which is in direct contrast with what the anti-vax community was claiming through the video.
A crucial point in verifying information on the internet is making sure a source is credible. This Associated Press article also points out this misinformation by not making any opinion-based claims, but by stating quantifiable data and not leaning into the point of view of the piece but simply reporting the facts of the news. However, based on the Pew Research Center study ” The ability to classify statements as factual or opinion varies widely based on political awareness, digital savviness and trust in news media.” This is troubling because in this very polarized political environment, especially regarding COVID-19 and the vaccine, people who are on the opposite end of the party lines and have a complete distrust in the media due to their favorite political leader’s agenda are getting totally different sides of the story. The video in Nigeria is a prime example of how these images that are showing the exact same thing can get interpreted so differently and misconstrued to mean completely opposite things. This can be seen in opinion and analysis style reporting, and in contrast, this Global Times opinion editorial of the event is clearly biased and filled with opinion-based claims that provide little or no proof. Though it may appear credible on the surface, there are multiple accusations that are not backed by fact or reasoning at all. One of these statements is that “The US and its allies have some nerve playing “saviors” despite their obvious selfishness.” Another one is, “The US and its partners’ hypocritical strategy against the pandemic is hampering the world’s COVID-19 fight.” It is important to realize that both of these claims came at the end of the article and hold no truth and are purely the opinions of the author and nothing more and therefore not a credible source to rely on. However, for someone less educated on misinformation and less willing to trust reliable news sources, they could take this misinformation and run with it and that is very troubling. That is why it is important to realize what is backed up by factual evidence and what is not on the internet using these tools like Reuters Fact Check to help people distinguish what is fact and what is fiction.
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