Conspiracy Theories, Fake News and Rumours

When New Zealand’s alert levels were escalated because of the new Auckland August cluster, people were very upset. Many of them were extremely angry when they discovered that a family with Covid-19 had travelled to Rotorua and Taupo. They said many cruel things about the family online. People invented horrible stories about the family, and this was very traumatic for them.

The Health Minister, Chris Hipkins gave an angry speech about this at the daily 1pm news conference and told people to treat anything they hear on social media as a rumour. He asked people to believe only what they heard from trusted sources such as the government, or reliable news media. He was also concerned about the many conspiracy theories people were discussing online.

This is a good time to talk about misinformation. Three common forms of misinformation are rumours, conspiracy theories and fake news. Rumours are information that has not been proven to be true. Conspiracy theories are rumours that claim there is a secret organisation controlling events. Fake news are crazy stories that appear to be true.


escalated: moved to a higher level

upset: not happy

cruel: unkind, mean

invent: to invent a story means to imagine a story

traumatic: bad, upsetting

news conference: at 1pm every day during the Covid-19 crisis, the government meets with news reporters and gives information. This is called a news conference.

social media: online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter

reliable: worthy of trust, truthful

misinformation: wrong information

proven: supported by evidence

claim: to say that something is true

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