Online disrespect and the spread of misinformation reveals how suspectable we are in a digital age.

Online disrespect and the spread of misinformation reveals how suspectable we are in a digital age.


False (or partially false) information spread in times of an emergency can:


  • Hinder your ability to find factual information you need to know how to keep yourself safe;
  • Place people’s physical and financial safety at risk;
  • Divert the time agencies, involved in keeping us all safe, spend on the CORE issues;
  • Delay help getting to those that need it the most and that might mean me YOU.


What do we know?


  • A MIT study revealed humans and not bots spread more false news (Vosoughi, 2018).   
  • QUT research (2020) reports digital influencers (i.e. insert popular celebrities, youtubers, instagrammers names here) are super spreaders of disinformation.
  • Data and Society report (2019) reveals media is being manipulated through 4 sources of hacking:
    • viral sloganeering to ‘repack’ content to allow outrage to continue;
    • leak ‘forgeries’ to prompt media sharing;
    • creating evidence collages of multiple sources into one misrepresented image; and
    • keyword squatting to control keywords to misrepresent groups or people.


What can you do?


Take a breath. Is it a joke or an attempt at satire? Some jokes can be very hard to distinguish from a real report. Look at the source / author and check if they are known for joke posts. Ask your parents or guardians if you need clarification.


Take action by … not doing anything! Ignore it and do not forward or give any light to misinformation. Any interaction, even merely opening to read an article, activates behind the scenes algorithms used by search engines and social media to push content towards the end-users.

  • Do not forward it;
  • Do not like it;
  • Do not up vote or down vote it; and
  • Do not tag it.

Take action by …. reporting it as fake news.

  • You can categorise it as a false news on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and twitter;
  • Block all posts from that source in the future; and
  • You can even provide Feedback to google outlining ‘it is false news story’.

Use only official sources to confirm information. Be wary that sources may pack false data alongside true sources to sneak negative and false messages in. Bookmark true sources:

Give yourself time to switch off from being online and information overload. This will give you time to step back and unwind. Headspace Australia reports that you need to be mindful of exposure through stories, traditional and social media and it may be helpful to have a break from the 24-hour news cycle.

  • Turn off notifications from emails and social media;
  • Add a do not disturb time on your devices;
  • Switch off 2 hours before sleep;
  • Exercise and move!;
  • Practise what you can control – good hygiene;
  • Talk to someone who can help and put context to your situation; and
  • Visit Kids helpline coronavirus and what is anxiety ( hint – we are all the same).

Contact numbers:

Lifeline: 13 11 14 or

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 or

beyondblue: 1300 224 636 or

headspace: visit to find your nearest centre or call eheadspace on 1800 650 890

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 or


SANE Australia: 1800 187 263 or

First appeared in Anglican Cyber Tuesdays 25/02/2020. 

Cover image from Cyberbullying.Org Inspirational Images