Twitter feeds and phone inboxes blazed to life today as messages saying that radioactive clouds from an explosion at a nuclear plant in Japan would put the country at risk of acid rain circulated far and wide. People who received the “warning” were told to stay indoors during the first 24 hours, close doors and windows, and swab their necks with Betadine as the text said that radiation hits the thyroid glands first.
The official website of the Government of the Philippines debunked the message and, in an advisory, says that the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) “clarifies that there is no immediate danger to the Philippines” resulting from the explosion. The same advisory states that the text message going around and warning people to “stay indoors and to wear raincoats if they go outdoors has no basis and did not come from the DOST or the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Center.”
Despite the clarifications, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) was prompted to cancel classes because of the text message. Dr. Dante Guevarra, president of the PUP, explained that they were skeptical, but calls from concerned parents forced them to suspend classes. According to the ANC Twitter account, when Dr. Guevarra was asked about his responsibility in correcting these impressions, he answered that they (PUP) were concerned about people “panicking” and opted to send students home.
Big news items can trigger panic, but situations such as an explosion at a nuclear facility can be made worse by rumors saying that its effects can endanger your life. Government officials were quick to deny that the country was under any risk, but not before the “warning” had already made the rounds. Read on and see FN’s advice on what you should do before you spread any rumors or what may be false warnings.
1. CONSIDER THE SOURCE.
While social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook are helpful in relaying information in a short amount of time, know that not everything that is shared on them is true. Rumors spread just as quickly as real news, and in highly sensitive cases, you’re much better off relying on authorities or experts on the subject than on a friend who is just retweeting or forwarding the information.
2. VERIFY THE INFORMATION.
Fears about radiation and acid rain can cause anyone to panic, but doing that will do little to help the situation. Before you start believing any sensational text messages or Facebook and Twitter updates, do a bit of sleuthing to see if there’s any truth to them. News sources such as the BBC, CNN, GMA News, and ABS-CBN News are good sites to visit when conducting research as they usually back their reports with quotes from reliable sources.
3. SHARE THE TRUTH WITH OTHERS.
After doing your own research and finding out that the information you’ve received is wrong, do the right thing and let people know what’s what. Include your sources in the message you send out, and calm people's nerves by saying that what they’ve been reading about isn’t true. Encourage your friends to spread the word to people they know as well.
If there are things or issues outside of this event that you need to verify, websites like Snopes.com and TruthOrFiction.com are good places to visit online. And if you’re constantly fielding e-mails that claim to have the answers to all your woes, HoaxSlayer.com has been listing down e-mail scams since 2003, so you’re bound to get important info from there.
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(Screencap courtesy of AssociatedPress on YouTube )