The internet exposes us to an enormous amount of information and news at our fingertips, and as a lot of us know, this creates a world full of misinformation and disinformation that can be hard to keep under control. This is why fact-checking is of the utmost importance when we are consuming media. Reuters is a multimedia news provider that reaches billions of people around the world. They have a fact-checking team that provides accurate, backed-up information about news headlines that can be false or misleading.
I want to talk about the topic of COVID-19, and how some claim that the COVID-19 vaccine adds a ‘third strand’ of DNA. Reuters confirmed that this statement was false. There was a video circulating on Twitter about how our DNA is being altered. It was viewed “over 400,000 times.” A user retweeted the video just a couple of weeks ago with the caption: “what if the Covid vaccine really is giving us a third strand of DNA? This gave me chills.”
The fact-checking process Reuters went through allowed them to confirm this video contained false statements. For one, they received confirmations from trusted professionals regarding the topic. In this case, they talked to Dr. Tara Kirk Sell, the Senior Scholar at John Hopkins Center for Health and Security, and associate professor in the Environmental Health and Engineering department at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health – whew, what a mouthful. In terms of the video, she says that “from the biology side, this isn’t how the vaccines or biology work,” and that “from the misinformation side, claims like these hook into existing false narratives related to conspiracies and gain a lot of traction through fake science talk.”
Given this information, who would you trust more, the professional or a random person who talked about a conspiracy theory? It’s clear to me that the Twitter video was made by someone who wanted to share her belief or bias in order to convince others that she’s telling the truth, but it’s important that you, the public, understand this as well.
According to the article by First Draft titled Fake News, It’s Complicated, “we certainly should worry about people unwittingly sharing misinformation,” and their “attempts to influence public opinion.” The article explains the different types of content being created and shared, and also the motivations of those who create it. In the “Misinformation Matrix” table they provided, it shows that providing false context is the result of having poor journalism, partisanship, propaganda, etc.
“Once they inadvertently share a misleading or fabricated article, image, video or meme, the next person who sees it in their social feed probably trusts the original poster, and goes on to share it themselves.”https://firstdraftnews.org/articles/fake-news-complicated/
Reuters explained that the screenshots provided in the Twitter video isn’t actual evidence of DNA alteration, and goes on to say that “vaccines do not enter the nucleus of the cell where DNA is located,” therefore there’s no possible way of our DNA being altered or changed. Reuters made sure to mention this information came from The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who also wrote about this on the “Myths & Facts” page on their website:
As you already may know, the CDC is a trusted organization for public health. Consumer Reports did a report on the amount of misinformation seen on different platforms, and they go on to say that the platforms they studied are trying to combat misinformation by providing articles by trusted health officials, like the CDC, as the top result when searching “coronavirus.”
All of this goes to show that not everything you hear or see online is true. It can be manipulative and misleading which is why verifying information is important. Don’t believe something is true just because someone is talking about it with a passion. Always fact-check.