Misinformation – Who to trust?

In these troubled Corona times – where everyone is at home and our screen time average is through the roof – I cannot help being shocked how many confusing messages and unfounded information are circulating and shared amongst us. I realised how ill prepared people are to confront these claims despite the emergence of the « fake news » which shed light on the phenomenon some time back, notably after the 2016 presidential elections.

The Colombia Journalism Review published a research from Claire Wardle which identify the most common misinformation techniques – check Details here:

  1. Authentic material used in the wrong context – by changing date, location and / or context
  2. Imposter news sites designed to look like brands we already know – creating a feeling of trustfulness
  3. Fake news sites – a fully worked website with no rooted truth or impartiality
  4. Fake information – a created piece of content made to look like a real information without roots in reality.
  5. Manipulated content – transforme content (for instance statistics) in a farfetched way to make a point
  6. Parody content – satire, sarcasm or jokes to convey an ambiguous message about a topic

If you do not feel like reading, listing to her interview on « your Undivided Attention ».

When I thought international media in the 2013 – the question remained around the biais between editor and advertisers who financed the news. Editors use to merely avoiding the hot topics from their « patrons » as revenues from subscriptions were diminishing and advertising was compensating for some time the influence keep growing.

It was clear the editor aims to preserve their independence despite strong headwinds from the newly created digital sphere’s ambitious players since iPhone was created and the evolution of the media consumption because most of the consumed content is on platforms that are not held responsible to provide sources and check facts broadcasted through it.

But this became different, a good proportion of adults (even a vast majority when considering lower education and income groups) consume news on Social Media as if they were a publisher, this was clear during the latest Presidential elections in the USA. Many study tried to understand this changes with clearly identifying the influence of news consumption (Check Pew research 2017).

People lacks the training to identify trustful sources and fact-checked information and we have the tendency to remember better the first information heard even if a correction has been published. The problem is not new.

Everyone feels more comfortable with facts and events that already suit our values and beliefs. One actually remembers these even better – even if eccentric – it is called the confirmation biais. This is leveraged very well by social media, but it will require a separate article to explain this.

What to do then ?

There are a great amount of opportunities to improve our fake news literacy – as well as avoid its amplification – that anyone can easily grab. I am not the expert in the field, but I try to protect myself and those who I love by checking out a few details when anything seems ambiguous:

  • Do not let yourself share anything without being certain it can be trusted ! whatever hilarious it looks to you
  • Illustration: is the illustration coherent to the story, to the context? reverse search the illustration to see if it has already been used => https://tineye.com/
  • Expert quote: do you know this expert ? where does s.he practice? has s.he got any references?
  • Web of origin: is it a known source of information? if not, where is it from? is it relevant to the news it broadcasts ? some basics that are useful
  • Statistics: Can you read the details of the question asked, when the research was run and by whom.

Ok, as the Chicago Tribune Editor said « …the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. », it just makes me hope that it helps to bring positive tips to the table.

We will be back with « timing » as the second part of « what is more important in media » in June, stay tuned.

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