In this video, digital media lecturer Dr Kevin Veale gives us a step-by-step guide on what to do when you encounter a piece of unverified information online. 

We first looked into the issue last year, when the August 2020 Covid community outbreak sparked a lot of online rumours and conspiracy theories.

At the time, 1 News journalist Anna Whyte also spoke to Dr Danny Osborne, a psychology expert at Auckland University, about how a state of uncertainty can lead people to mistakenly fill in the gaps.

Here's what she found:

New Zealand's second community Covid-19 wave has seen an aggressive rise of conspiracy theories and erroneous rumours sweep the country.

It has spurred then-Health Minister Chris Hipkins to publicly debunk two rumours - one that caused "extreme distress" to the family at the centre of it and another around Oranga Tamariki that he feared would "erode people's confidence of going to go get tested". 

A third rumour saw the New Zealand Defence Force having to outline its role within the Covid-19 response, as concern set in by some of the level of its powers. 

It comes amid a lack of information around the source of the community-based outbreak in Auckland. 

Dr Danny Osborne, a psychology expert at Auckland University, said being in a state of uncertainty or not knowing was "very unsettling".

"People have a fundamental need to know," he said. "As such, people are attracted to information that fills these gaps - even if the information is untenable or factually incorrect."

Dr Osborne said that misinformation could influence people's actions, just as much as information.

"Ironically, conspiracies are kind of like a virus... Because they are often unfalsifiable, conspiracy beliefs can be difficult to counteract (e.g. those who endorse a conspiracy might think you are in on the cover up).

He said that threats in the environment could increase the likelihood that people would endorse a conspiracy.

"We are really living through a unique period of history where conspiracy theories can easily spread through social media, mixed with high levels of uncertainty and threat."

At the beginning of the August 2020 outbreak, Chris Hipkins also addressed a rumour that claimed the community-based transmission was linked to a woman having snuck into a managed isolation facility.

"Not only was it harmful and dangerous, it was totally and utterly wrong," he said. "At a time when we are fighting a pandemic and we need all hands on deck to beat it down, this sort of behaviour is deliberately designed to create panic, fear and confusion."

It was later revealed a man who posted the false theory online was "scrambling for answers" and connected two rumours he had heard at Auckland University. 

Another inaccurate rumour circulating was that the New Zealand Defence Force would take over hospitals, quarantine bases and airports. 

The NZDF came out against this, outlining its support to the Covid-19 response as contributing planning across Government agencies, providing staff to managed isolation and quarantine facilities and providing personnel to help police at Auckland vehicle checkpoints. 

"Our involvement in such activities is far from unusual, and is routinely trained for," it said in a statement. 

Another baseless theory was that the pandemic was planned.

Dr Osborne said that instead of "resting with the fact that we’re dealing with a highly infectious virus (that many virologists feared would one day emerge), people seek grand explanations for it". 

"This includes ideas about the Government knowing beforehand that a the virus was spreading in the community before going back into the current lockdown.

"Rather than looking at the facts and realising that the Government was providing responsible advice to prepare for what most/all public health officials were saying, some saw this as a nefarious plan by those in power to control the public.

"This is particularly likely when there is currently a great deal of uncertainty around how the virus re-emerged in our community."

That same month, Chris Hipkins also addressed the false rumour around Oranga Tamariki taking children of parents who tested positive to Covid-19. 

Mr Hipkins specified it would not happen, with the rumour risking eroding people's confidence to get tested. 

"People should go and get tested, they should do the right thing, and those sorts of rumours certainly don't help.

"Those sorts of rumours are circulating in the community, and it does seem to be circulating particularly in the Māori and Pacific community based on the number of questions we have had about that."

Alongside the uncertainty around how Covid-19 re-emerged into the community, Dr Osborne said there was "understandable scepticism that exists" within Māori and Pacific communities.

A report released around the same time from Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft found Māori babies aged 0-3 months were five times more likely to be placed into state custody than non-Māori. Findings of abuse had decreased overall, however, more Māori babies were being assessed and removed earlier.

"Māori and Pacific communities have had a history of mistreatment from the Government," Dr Osborne said. "If you’ve been lied to and mistreated in the past, why would you take someone’s word at face value again?"

Worldwide, the John Hopkins Center stated misinformation, "including conspiracy theories, are exacerbating divisions as the Covid-19 response becomes increasingly politicized". 

New Zealand’s former chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman also addressed the issue in a speech he made in August 2020. He said the “misinformation age… risks all our futures”.

"Misinformation has been rife in the pandemic, conspiracy theories abound and these arise especially when trust is low.

"Some conspiracy theories have had geostrategic consequences, hyperbolic claims have been made based on nonsensical claims of novel treatments and we have had our local examples of fuelled misinformation."

Sir Peter said that education needed to change "radically" for young people to navigate through the digital age.