People wearing face masks in cars.
Illustration: Joe Carrington

Most of us are familiar with "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," a parable about a young shepherd who falsely convinces his neighbors that their sheep are under attack. But you might not know that the tale is roughly 2,600 years old—one of the legendary Aesop's Fables. And while the primary lesson of the story has been passed on for generations of children, the very fact of its age provides another lesson, too: As long as there has been information, there has been misinformation.

Misinformation is the reason Consumer Reports was created 84 years ago, at a time when Americans were being bombarded by complex new technologies and an evolution in deceptive advertising. Product manufacturers that overpromise and questionable radio ads have given way to far more insidious forms of misinformation that threaten the integrity of our economy, our democracy, and the choices we make. Trust in the marketplace is harder than ever to come by—and the rise of social media has coincided with the weakening of trustworthy journalism, allowing conspiracy theories and alternate realities to take root.

Nowhere are the consequences of that trend more clear and devastating than in the context of COVID-19, which has led to what the World Health Organization has called an "infodemic"—the unchecked spread of sometimes deadly misinformation designed to prey on people's fears and preconceptions. There has never been a greater need for trusted, expert information than there is today, with so many lives at stake—and now is a critical time for CR to redouble our mission to advance rigor and honesty in our society. That effort will be an ongoing focus of our journalism and testing, as well as our Annual Meeting on Oct. 21—a virtual event that I hope you'll tune in to at CR.org/annualmeeting. We at CR will continue to combat harmful misinformation and stand up for evidence and facts, as we have since our earliest days.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the November 2020 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.