Raising awareness and providing tools for Canadians to be sensitized to misinformation is integral for building citizen awareness of science-related misinformation. Although misinformation and disinformation are oftentimes used synonymously, they do differ. Misinformation refers to any false or misleading information, regardless of intent. Meanwhile, disinformation, a subcategory of misinformation, is false information with the intent to deceive.
With the increase of social media and digital technologies, misinformation today can be published online and reach tens of thousands of users almost immediately. Below are some tips to help Canadians identify science misinformation, as well as a list of networks supported by the Government of Canada that help address science misinformation by providing tools, building evidence and raising awareness.
Tips to help identify misinformation
Verify information with trustworthy sources
If you come across information that you are not sure is accurate, verify information by referencing trustworthy sources when possible.
Investigate the original source
Investigate if the information is coming from a credible source. If the source is from social media or a forum then investigate further to determine if the proposed source material matches the information you have come across.
Check the domain name
An easy way to check if information coming from a website is legitimate or not is to examine the domain name. Untrustworthy websites may use a URL that looks similar to popular news sites by omitting a letter or two, or by misspelling the name entirely.
Canadian Association of Science Centres (CASC)
The Canadian Association of Science Centres is a national platform for Canada’s science centres/museums and informal science engagement. Both science centres and museums have relevance to all areas of the population and are important meeting places for science and society. Science centres and museums work to showcase science by illustrating its beauty, demonstrating its necessity, and making it accessible to the general public.
Created in 1996, MediaSmarts is a non-profit organization that develops digital and media literacy programs and resources for Canadian homes, schools and communities. Their vision is to ensure that Canadians have the critical thinking skills to engage with media as active and informed digital citizens. Since 2019, MediaSmarts has received funding for Media Literacy Week and other projects through the Digital Citizen Contribution Program, which promotes critical thinking in a digital world.
On their website, you will be able to find the following activities and other tools to teach Canadians about science literacy and identifying misinformation online.
- Reality Check: The Game
- Break the Fake
- Verifying Online News
- Finding and Evaluating Science and Health Information
- Authentication 101
- Resources for Parents – Authenticating Information
- Ethics of Sharing Information Online
Science Literacy Week
Libraries, museums, science centres, schools and not-for-profits come together to highlight the books, movies, podcasts and events that convey the excitement and influence of science in our everyday lives. The 2021 Science Literacy Week theme focused on climate and how Canadian climates have evolved over time, how those changes have impacted our lives, and how climates might change in the future.
#ScienceUpFirst is a national initiative that works with a collective of independent scientists, researchers, healthcare experts and science communicators. Supported through the Public Health Agency of Canada, they aim to stop the spread of misinformation around COVID-19. Follow them on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook @ScienceUpFirst, and share their posts with your friends and followers. Visit the #ScienceUpFirst webpage for shareable content and to join the conversation.