Association produces three-stage fact check for public to ensure they are looking at genuine council content and messages
The Local Government Association (LGA) has put out guidance for the public on how to avoid fake news and misinformation that pretends to come from online council sources.
It said it comes in response to concern among local authorities about the use of information and how it can affect their day-to-day work.
This includes worries over scammers seeking to trick people into obeying fake parking laws and swindling them out of money by claiming to be from the local council.
The LGA has published a three-stage fact check for people to determine whether what they are seeing is genuine.
Firstly, they should check the source of online information, and if it is on social media such as Twitter and Facebook some accounts will be verified with a blue tick.
Secondly, they should ask themselves about the media they are looking at, checking to see if a website ends in gov.uk and whether it includes basic information such as details of councillors and how to contact relevant services.
Thirdly, they should ask questions about what content is being distributed and whether it is something a council would want to communicate. If it looks out of character or too political it is unlikely to be legitimate.
Councillor Simon Blackburn (pictured), chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “The best way to tackle misinformation is for residents to be constantly vigilant, and ask the key questions of any information they see online – who is supplying this information, how are they doing it, and what are they saying? If those questions set off any red flags or alarm, it’s worth cross-referencing information with other council communication channels, such as the council website, social media, or calling the council directly.
“Councils will always endeavour to communicate in an accessible and professional way. Simple checks such as looking for verification ticks on social media, or checking the tone and style of written communications can help residents sort between genuine council correspondence and misinformation.
“Anybody concerned about fake communications purporting to be from a local authority should contact their council directly.”
The LGA’s move follows the Government’s recent setting up of a National Security Unit to tackle fake news, while the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee is currently investigating its impact on political discourse.
Image from LGA