Do you find it crazy that there are people in the world today who purposely take a news article or some piece of information, doctor it by changing the facts, and then recirculate it as truth? I do. But it’s true. In fact, some scholars are calling this the “post-truth” era. That’s a discouraging development in human history. How we got here can be traced back to the enlightenment period. But you don’t have to be an expert in philosophy to protect yourself from believing and sharing false information.
Today there is a constant barrage of “fake news.” Why would someone purposely disseminate false information? There may be several reasons. I think there are still some people who are naive and believe that if something is in print it must be true. Others may enjoy knowing they have caused a stir by getting people to believe disinformation. Still others have an agenda either to tarnish another person, make political hay, create a distraction from the truth, or perhaps they simply want to increase their own web traffic.
How to tell?
There are several steps you can take to verify whether someone’s post or forward is factual. But before we discuss steps, there is a bigger issue to settle: Deciding that truth and accuracy matters.
I remember a woman who had forwarded a post about something. It had all the earmarks of being bogus. So, I checked it out for myself and I informed her ( very nicely I might add) that the article was false. Her response was one of dismay at the reality that we should check out our sources and the truthfulness of the information we share.
What fuels this “fake news” culture is subjectivism, bias, and laziness. We tend to think what we think is right, believe those who agree with us. But let’s assume that’s not you. After all, you’re reading this post!!
So, what are the steps you can take to verify that the information you are reading and sending is accurate?
Step 1>Don’t send what you haven’t read
Read it for yourself. Does it strike you as hard to believe? What would the reaction of others be if it were true? Have you heard anyone react that way? Usually, if it is outlandish or outrageous it probably is.
Step 2>Is anyone else talking about it?
Reword the headline and do a Google search. Is anyone else talking about it? Do the facts line up? Is anyone disputing it? If you don’t find anything on it anywhere, chances are it is a fake story.
Step 3>Research primary sources
If the story is about an event, go straight to the source of those who held the event or others who were also there. Do research on the author to see if he is reputable. If it centers around a Tweet or other social media posts, find those posts for yourself. If the author is bogus or disreputable and if the tweets etc can’t be found, we may have a fake story.
Step 4>Sort fact from fiction
If you have gone through Steps 1-3 and still feel the story is worth investigating, take responsibility for sorting out the facts from the points that are fiction. Be prepared to make your case from reliable sources.
Step 5>Make a decision
Finally, you have to decide whether to vouch for the information you have researched or not. Remember, if you send it or post it, you are endorsing its validity.
Categories: The Post-Truth Era