It is the age of misinformation, but after the Nobel Peace prize was given to journalists fighting for truth in an endless ball pit of fake news the conversation should no longer be foreign to anybody using the internet. Fake news often resembles real news and often it’s hard to tell what is real and what is fake.
I’ve been having this conversation a lot lately. And I think we’re all guilty of believing and probably even sharing a fake story or two. But it is time to be more vigilant about this, do some research and hold tech companies accountable for what is being spread on their platforms.
What can you do?
Stop – understand what fake news is, how it is designed to anger, confuse, influence and swindle. This is not just exclusive to look-a-like news articles, remember that photographs can also be edited and faked, meme’s, shared stories, urban legends etc. Keep a cool head when surfing or scrolling and stop before reacting or reposting.
Think – If you see something that triggers you be conscious of that. Fake news stories are often designed to trigger a reaction. Anger and gossip is what keeps us activated the longest.
Check – start with the source and find the original. Is it a well known news outlet? Has the story been published elsewhere? News travels, so if the story is true and remarkable in some way then you should be skeptical if it has not been published anywhere else.
Verify – There are many websites now, dedicated to fact checking where you can search for the story you’ve seen. They also post and verify stories that are gaining a lot of traction and shares in social media. One of these are factcheck.org – they also have underlying pages for science facts, video, political facts etc.
This is not a solution, but a way for you to contribute to the fight against misinformation. The solution lies in policy and law that democratic governments can pass. We as voters need to make sure we vote for the representatives that are willing to work to make this happen. As Maria Ressa said when I met with her after she received the Nobel peace prize “It’s impunity eh – in the real world you can’t shout FIRE in a crowded theatre, you can’t shout BOMB in an airline when you’re boarding right? So why is that not the law online?”