Fake news is nothing new; it’s been around for centuries.

Consider Jesus’ resurrection. A story was fabricated by the chief priests and the soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb, saying that “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.” The writer continues, “And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.” See that? “Widely circulated!”

The story of the stolen body was fake news. It wasn’t an alternative fact. It was just plain wrong.

With the advent of the internet and social media, false facts have taken on a life of their own. Reliable news and misinformation live together side by side, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. It’s enough to make you cynical like Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. At his trial, Jesus told Pilate, “The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Pilate mockingly replied, “What is truth?”

As a Christian, I want to be a person of truth. I don’t want to be responsible for sharing anything misleading. I imagine you feel the same way, so here are a few things I do before I post or share so I don’t end up being a jerk online:

Take a deep breath

If a headline or post grabs your emotions, you’re more likely to share it. And yet, the more a post provokes you, the more likely it is to be misleading. Do you know that feeling of outrage? You can’t believe that it’s true, and you’re incensed, and you have to share it so others can be furious too. That’s when you need to take a deep breath. Decide never to post anything when you’re in that frame of mind ~ or when you’re tired, stressed, or anxious.

Check the facts

Genuine news will include sources for all information presented. Who’s quoted, and what are their qualifications? If statistics are cited, from which study are they taken? Was the research professionally conducted and peer-reviewed? If sources aren’t quoted, odds are it’s not authentic.

Don’t believe everything you read or watch. It could be a hoax, a wild conspiracy theory, or misinformation. Do an internet search to see if it’s been quoted by reliable news sources (Associated Press, Reuters, BBC, for example). Has it already been identified as false? If there’s a photo, is it genuine or fake? If it’s a video, who is presenting? Check out who created the video. What organisation(s) do they represent? What is their motivation?

The internet is teeming with fake news sites and other outlets with very low ethics of truthful reporting. Check out their media bias and level of factual coverage. Avoid far-right and extreme-left sites and especially those that perpetuate baseless conspiracies. Some fact-check sites give a tin-foil hat rating!

Regularly I receive links to articles and videos. Rarely do these come with a message like, “Hi Rob, would you please look at this and let me know your thoughts?” I know the motivation behind this. “They” want to convert me to “their” way of thinking on the topic of the day. I usually take the time to check it out and get back to them with a fact check. Predictably there’s no response, no “thank you so much for taking the time.” There’s just silence until the next article or video arrives. I eventually ask people like this to stop sending me unwanted commentary. That rarely works either. Choose not to be a jerk like that!

Sadly, false information gets blindly shared hundreds of thousands of times. Some people refuse vaccination because they’ve watched or read something and are now more fearful of the vaccine than of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. People are getting very sick and dying because they’ve listened to this sort of fake story. As Australia moves into the next pandemic phase and learns to live with the virus, we will see many more people getting sick. Many will recover, some will develop long-COVID, others will die. Most of this is highly preventable simply by being vaccinated. I strongly encourage you to chat with your GP and get a second opinion if you’re not satisfied.

See through the hype

Fake news will invariably play on people’s hopes and fears, anger, empathy, or sense of justice. And, have you noticed, it’s ALWAYS someone else’s fault? Blame the government, blame the health experts (think Dr Fauci, America’s Chief Medical Advisor to the President, and the heat he’s copped from people who don’t know the first thing about viral pandemics and immunology).

Harmful propaganda will always play on our fears and blame others for our problems. The 1918 flu pandemic was blamed on the Germans’ Submarines. In the 14th Century, the Bubonic plague was blamed on Jews, acting on behalf of the Muslim prince of Grenada, who had bribed the lepers to contaminate public fountains and wells to kill the Christians.

Casting blame legitimises our despising of the “other” who is viewed as the cause of our problems. If you’re a Christian, behaviour such as this lies far below the Royal Law of Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself” (James 2:8). Your behaviour online must be in line with the faith you profess!

Be Honest

I do all of the above BEFORE I post or share anything on social media. If you are a person of truth, you must do due diligence BEFORE you say or publish anything. But we all get it wrong sometimes. And when we do, let’s own it and apologise.

If I notice something false on someone else’s page, I invariably send them a private message. Sometimes I leave a comment on the thread. Mostly, my message is ignored, and the post remains.

Several months ago, a friend posted this on Facebook, “After hearing Mark Zuckerberg saying that posting the Lord’s Prayer goes against their policies….” He then posted the Lord’s Prayer and encouraged other people to share his comments that anything of the Gospel is considered HATE speech by Facebook. He continued, “So, I posted this because the Lord’s Prayer is against their company policy.” I let him know that this is a hoax that has been circulating on Facebook since 2014. He didn’t reply. No comments. No, “thanks for letting me know, Rob.” I’ve come to expect this kind of ghosting on social media. But what a sad day it is when we can’t be grateful, humble, and truthful. By the way, this false information was shared 257 times by his Facebook friends. People carelessly passed on the fake news and commented, “Amen,” dozens of times as if this was gospel truth. Which it isn’t. God help us!

If you post something fake or inaccurate, don’t be embarrassed but please be responsible. Apologise for the post and make sure others realise that your original statement was wrong.

Wise Up

Some of the bogus information circulating online is spread by bad actors. For example, a German-based conspiracy group (Worldwide Demonstration) has helped to coordinate protests across the globe, including in various Australian cities. “The group’s various Facebook and Telegram pages are awash with anti-vaccine and Covid-19 conspiracy theories, as well as other conspiratorial content such as QAnon and Islamophobia.”  (See reference)

Sadly, Christian people are being captivated by this dangerous rhetoric that leads them to behave in a less than Christian way. We must be better than this!



Thanks to Doctor Google, everyone can know everything about everything. Everyone can be an expert! It’s really quite simple:

  1. Choose a topic
  2. Do a Google search
  3. Choose one or two of the 442 million results that pop up in a few seconds
  4. Ignore the others, especially the ones that disagree with you
  5. Share expert advice on your social media platforms so others can share your research without checking the facts.

This happens millions of times every day. Some of these things end up in my Messenger Inbox.

For example, a friend recently sent me a clip from Sky News commentator, Rowan Dean. There was no message. No context. Just a clip. So, I watched it and wasn’t surprised. Sky News leans Right, but their news opinion segments are partisan Right. So, you wouldn’t put much credibility in Sky unless you wanted a far-right bent that agreed with your own bias.

In this clip, Rowan Dean waxed eloquently for seven minutes about how Sweden “got it right,” while other countries, including Australia, got it very wrong. I don’t know Rowan Dean. I do know that he’s an advertising executive. I don’t think he’s medically trained. Still, he seemed confident that Sweden got it right by not embracing the harsh lockdown measures adopted by other countries. To back up his opinion, he quoted several sources, all of them right-biased:

  • The UK Telegraph has a mixture of factual and non-factual reporting. It sometimes publishes misleading reports and omits to report information that may damage conservative causes.
  • The Spectator Australia: Rowan Dean is the editor (no conflict of interest there)
  • The Daily Mail: scores “Low” on factual reporting and shows extreme right-bias, poor sourcing to credible information, and is prone to conspiracies and fake news.

Quoting any of these sources is like me saying, “It’s true. I read it in the Herald Sun.” Understand that algorithms will feed you content that is similar to what you’ve already read when you search on the Internet.

The danger here is that you can think the whole world agrees with you. To counter this, you must glean information from a wide range of credible references.

I responded to my friend, “It’s still way too early to tell whether Sweden got it right or not. The Spanish Flu came in three waves as the virus mutated. Wave Two killed most people. COVID-19 is a new virus in human beings. Medical professionals are still working out what it’s like, how to respond to it, and so on. Rowan Dean is an advertising executive, not a medically trained person. He would do well to learn from history and delay his judgments. That’s, of course, if he wants to learn from history!”

Balance the Information

In the second part of the clip, Dean discussed hydroxychloroquine, which, he says, was used by Switzerland with significant effect against COVID-19, then banned because of a negative report in The Lancet medical journal. The Lancet later retracted the article, and Switzerland started using hydroxychloroquine again.

It should be appreciated that The Lancet retracted the article because they wanted to independently review the original research. But, because of client confidentiality, the researchers refused to share their data. For this reason, The Lancet retracted the article, not because the research was wrong.

Further research has been conducted. The Lancet has now republished the study adding, “Several arguments support the hypothesis that hydroxychloroquine, in addition to having no beneficial effect in hospitalised patients with COVID-19, might have potentially fatal cardiac effects.”

This week, The Lancet published another study which, to their knowledge, is “the largest ever analysis of the safety of hydroxychloroquine and hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin worldwide.”  Their conclusion: “Although long-term treatment with hydroxychloroquine is not expected for the management of COVID-19, some research suggests that the higher doses prescribed for COVID-19 than for rheumatoid arthritis can, even in the short term, lead to equivalent side-effects given the long half-life of hydroxychloroquine.” Those side-effects include increased risk of chest pain, angina, and heart failure. Armed with credible, evidence-based, peer-reviewed research, countries and states can make informed decisions whether or not to include this drug as part of the treatment for COVID-19.

To my previous message, my friend responded, “How about the hydroxy chloroquine [sic.] it has been unjustly vilified!” I replied, “I’m not medically trained. I don’t know if it’s been unjustly vilified or not. Donald Trump is not medically trained either, and I believe he has been irresponsible in his endorsement of this drug. I do know that one of the downsides of all this publicity is that hydroxychloroquine has become in very short supply. I recently saw an interview with a lady who has lupus, and she said she hasn’t been able to get her regular hydroxychloroquine prescription. What a tragedy. I wonder how many other people have been adversely affected? I am concerned that so many lies are being spread by so-called Christians. I think, “Thou shalt not lie” is still a commandment??”

A trap for people on the far-right is a propensity to fall for conspiracy theories. Conservative Christians often fall for these due to a belief in a coming one-world government and the antichrist. And so, COVID-19 becomes this evil plan instituted by a cabal to derail countries, a plot to destroy businesses, and remove freedoms. And “they” are trying to cover all this up. “They” know that hydroxychloroquine really works against “their” man-made virus, but “they” don’t want you to take it and get better. Not only that, Bill Gates already has the vaccine and wants to inject it into you along with a microchip so you can be tracked. To be clear, the technology to track people via vaccine microchip doesn’t yet exist. A chip would need to be injected (one that can send and receive information), a battery would have to be inserted too. What size of a hypodermic needle would you need for that? And how would Bill Gates co-opt every doctor, nurse, and medical professional around the world to buy into this scheme?

This kind of fear-mongering is not worthy of those who follow Jesus. We are called to be people of truth, not conspiracies and lies. I thank God for medical professionals who, out of their love for humanity, give their lives to health and healing. What we need is not guess-work from politicians or armchair “experts.” Your Google search is not research. It doesn’t compare to someone’s Master’s degree or Doctorate. And it doesn’t make you an expert!

Times of crisis, including Pandemics, always see a rise in conspiracy theories. And so, what we’re witnessing now is nothing new.

Consider the yellow fever outbreak in the USA in the late 1700s. We now know that Yellow Fever is a mosquito-borne virus probably carried to the US from Africa via the slave trade. But at the time, all sorts of theories were circulated. Some said it came from the vapour of rotting vegetables or the ash of a volcanic eruption in Sicily. It wasn’t until 1901 when Army physician Walter Reed demonstrated that yellow fever came from a mosquito bite, and a vaccine did not appear until 1937.

Blame the Illuminati

When medical science can’t immediately provide all the answers, some people will make up their own. In the late 1700s, conspiracies abounded about a secret Cabal named, The Illuminati, which was behind the pandemic.

Now, an actual group called the Illuminati was founded in Bavaria on May 1, 1776. They were not dedicated to global domination. Its purpose was to discuss what was at the time dangerously radical ideas (secularism and women’s rights). Carl Theodore, the Duke of Bavaria, banned the group in the summer of 1784, and three years later, the society was no more. That should have been the end of it, but sadly that’s not the case.

Historical Hysterics

In 1890, the New York Herald European edition ran an item suggesting that the electric light was somehow responsible for a global influenza outbreak.

The 1918 flu pandemic was blamed on German Submarines. In the 14th Century, the Bubonic plague was blamed on the Jews, acting on behalf of the Muslim prince of Grenada, who had bribed the lepers to contaminate public fountains and wells to kill the Christians.

Fast forward to 2020, and we’re inundated with fake news and conspiracies about the Deep State, 5G, vaccines, and face masks.

Fake News

In March, Facebook rated as false more than forty million posts about the pandemic. Many of these posts are shared countless times by well-meaning people who don’t take the time to check their facts. I’ve been inundated with these during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider the following conspiracies that are all incorrect:

  • The virus emerged from a secret laboratory outside Wuhan, China.
  • The coronavirus vaccine already exists and is being withheld.
  • Bill Gates is out to plant a chip in people using the vaccine.
  • The swab test for COVID-19 plants a chip in the roof of the nasal cavity.
  • The United States government created the virus.
  • The metal wire in some face masks is really a 5G antenna.
  • Directives to wear face masks are illegal, and the fines are also unlawful.
  • Businesses refusing cash are part of the push towards a cashless society and one-world government.
  • Forbidding churches to meet is a sign of targeted suppression of the church.
  • The introduction of 5G broadband and radiation from cell towers equipped with 5G technology is the real culprit.
  • Plus, the virus doesn’t exist, it’s harmless, it’s an excuse to limit our freedom; it’s being used for population control to stop global warming (which doesn’t exist either).

These and other statements that are circulated on social media as facts are simply wrong. What’s needed is wisdom, caution, and diligence. Christian people should be leading in the spreading of truth rather than dissemination of conspiracy rubbish.

Check the Facts

Rather than blindly believing and sharing, take time to do due diligence. Make use of fact-checking organisations like PolitiFact, Snopes, Media Bias/Fact check, and others. And be aware of what kind of website you’re gleaning information from. I’ve seen people quote The Babylon Bee, The Borowitz Report, or Weekly World News to prove a point. These are satirical sites that deliberately produce tongue-in-cheek articles. They use parody, mockery, or sarcasm and are not meant to be taken literally.

You Shall Not Lie

After all, what is a conspiracy theory but a lie? It comprehensively and grievously violates the Ninth Commandment. “You shall not bear false witness,” a command that forbids “Speaking falsely in any matter, lying, equivocating, and any way devising and designing to deceive our neighbour.”

A conspiracy theorist bears false witness against his neighbours — against his fellow citizens. He accuses them of grievous sins, he destroys their good name and can even incite violence. Christians should be above such things but sadly are often the ones who are deceived by them and broadcast them to others.

Mandatory Masks

I’ll finish with a comment on wearing face masks. In Victoria, mask-wearing is now mandatory (from 11.59pm Wednesday, July 22). The wearing of masks has been heavily politicised in the USA. In Australia, I’ve already seen (even Christian) people react to this mandate from the State government: “Directives to wear face masks are illegal, and the fines are also illegal,” wrote a Christian evangelist on Facebook this week. This is simply wrong. Making masks mandatory is not against the law. Under Australian law, private landowners or occupiers can take reasonable steps to protect themselves, their employees, and people on their property. So, it is legal for businesses – including cafes and supermarkets – to make it a condition of entry that customers wear a mask and sanitise their hands.

This law is similar to the ones that mandate wearing a seatbelt when in a vehicle, having appropriate clothing before admittance to some venues, or the “No hat no play” rule in schools. Wearing masks is a directive of the Chief Medical Officer and needs to be followed. Failure to comply can lead to a fine. There’s nothing illegal about it. It’s for your good and the good of others.

While some people will be exempt from wearing a mask for medical reasons, most people will need to wear one. It’s a small, temporary inconvenience that can save lives and slow the spread of this virus.

Christians need to lead the way, loving their neighbour as themselves. Please, don’t mistake the inconvenience for oppression. And PLEASE stop buying into and spreading lies.

It never ceases to amaze me what some people post on social networking sites like Facebook – as if the rest of the world can’t see!

Even some people at Bayside Church have made statements or posted pictures that have surprised me for two reasons.  The first reason is for the lack of wisdom displayed and the second is because the post reveals a behaviour or character issue that is inconsistent with the person’s Christian confession.

It’s not surprising then that some of this “over-sharing” on Facebook has led to an overabundance of evidence in divorce cases.  The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says 81% of its members have used or faced evidence plucked from social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and Linkedin over the last five years – 66% of them from Facebook.

About one in five adults use Facebook for flirting.  I personally know of five marriages that have broken down over the past year because of inappropriate online activity.  And these are Christian couples!

There have been cases where children have been asked by one parent to “de-friend” the other parent because of separation or divorce.  Some of the other gaffs include:

 Husband goes on Match.com and declares his single, childless status while seeking primary custody of said nonexistent children.
 Husband denies anger management issues but posts on Facebook, “If you have the balls to get in my face, I’ll kick your ass into submission.”
 Mum denies in court that she smokes marijuana but posts partying, pot-smoking photos of herself on Facebook.
 A woman accuses her spouse of adultery and he denies this in court.  Meanwhile the girlfriend posts pictures of her and the man on Facebook!

And so on it goes.  It’s the “Second Life Syndrome” where there’s a disconnect between what a person is in real life compared with who they are online.  They live in a dream world, with a picture of who they’d like to be and who they wish they were.  Not one of us will attain perfection this side of heaven, but there is great peace in living a life without guile and hypocrisy – where what you see is what you get.

Facebook is an excellent site if used properly.  The internet likewise offers great benefits and resources.  But many good things can be a curse when not used properly.  If you find yourself struggling with “Second Life Syndrome” please seek help from a trusted friend who can hold you accountable. Don’t become another statistic from a Facebook foul-up.