True or false on the Internet.
They say the truth is there and that really includes the Internet. The problem is that the truth is drowned out by a huge mass of distorted, misleading, and blatantly false information.
The good news is that with (not) common sense, you can get a good idea of â€‹â€‹what might be true or false on the Internet.
Consider The Source
The truth is true no matter who says it, but the likelihood that a reliable and transparent source will accurately report the facts is much higher than that of sources with a bad or unknown reputation. Therefore, initially, you can give more weight to the sources of information that are subject to regulation (for example, scientific or journalistic councils) and adhere to well-known methodologies for collecting and transmitting news.
Be very careful with random sites with anonymous owners and authors. Such sites can be very popular with a certain type of conspiracy-loving internet user who will happily share these links. If your first contact with a story or information comes from such a site, your next step in making sure something is true or false is to confirm the information.
Next, Consider Multiple Sources
Even if you consider the first source to be reliable and open source, you should seek confirmation of the underlying facts from multiple independent sources.
They will provide different perspectives on the story, additional information, and confirm the sources and messages of your first source. If several independent sources say the same thing, the likelihood that they are telling the truth increases.
Look For AP-style Coverage
There are many different ways to tell a story. The traditional way of training journalists to report events and information to the public follows a few basic rules, which include things like:
- Tell readers â€œwho, what, when, where, and howâ€
- Please fill in the most important facts first, then add additional facts later.
- Please report what happened without giving reasons or adding your own opinion.
When a story is written from a certain political or ideological point of view, it ceases to be news and moves into the editorial sphere.
This brings us to the Associated Press or AP reporting standards. Here you can see what the AP requires. In short, AP-style stories try to minimize bias and provide you with an interpretation of key facts. So at the very least, it’s worth including the AP version of the story in your overall assessment of what’s true and what’s not.
Videos And Photos Are Not The Truth
We live in an era of advanced photo and video manipulation. Photoshop and deepfake artificial intelligence mean that people spreading misinformation can create all sorts of visual â€œevidenceâ€ that is partly or completely fabricated.
This means that it is worth waiting for forensic experts to confirm that these media have not been tampered with. Even if the photo or video has not been tampered with, this does not mean that they reflect the truth, or at least the whole truth.
A photograph is just a snapshot. It doesn’t tell you anything about what happened before or after the photo was taken. You cannot see what is happening outside the frame and you have no context for the content of the image. All this radically changes the meaning of the image!
It’s the same with the video. Videos can be cut to fit a specific narrative. This means you don’t know what happened before or after the clip. You don’t know what happened between the transitions of the clip. You also don’t know what happened outside of the clip frame. So don’t put too much weight on photos or videos on their own.
Review Sources And References
Each story is based on a chain of other reports until it leads back to the original source. That is, unless the author of the story reports directly from the source! Every time someone states or reports an event, it is very important to look for the sources that they cite. Are these sources reliable? Where did they get the information?
What matters is that the cited source does indeed support the interpretation or inference of the original statement on which it is based? By following the chain of links, you can discover where something has been malformed or manufactured.
Apply Basic Critical Thinking
In addition to checking the facts and considering the source of the information, you should also try to go through at least a basic process of critical thinking when assessing whether a statement is true or false. What does it mean? Let’s highlight the list and simplify things:
- Ask how accurate the information is. Unusual claims require extraordinary evidence!
- Whole logical chain? Is there an unreasonable logical leap taking place somewhere?
- Are there alternative explanations or conclusions that can be drawn from the facts presented?
- Is there any reasonable doubt that the facts could be wrong? (eg untrustworthy witnesses)
- How plausible is the story presented?
It’s not about digging the real truth out of the information you have. This is necessary in order to establish how reasonable doubts are about what you actually see.
Donâ€™t Use Social Media As Your Source Of News
This is probably the most important thing you can do to clear the flow of information. Social media is very susceptible to bias because it intentionally brings people with similar views together. You don’t get a flood of opinions and stories that reflect an average or diverse set of views.
If it’s okay to learn something important through social media, looking for corroboration or raw facts is not the best option. You are much better off going beyond social media and looking for facts elsewhere.
Apply These Tips Selectively
We hope that the tips in this article will help you less likely to believe inaccurate information and be more confident in identifying correct information. However, it is obvious that it is impossible to thoroughly research every bit of information that you encounter every day to this level. You will never have time to do something else. Of course, you can always turn to fact-checking sites like Snopes for most things, but even those sites can be wrong.
So what do you do then? We suggest that you carefully analyze only important stories and information. This can mean either that they matter to you personally, or that they matter in a more universal sense.
Did this celebrity throw a drink in someone’s face? It probably doesn’t matter. This is not an important statement. However, if someone is promoting an unproven and untested cancer drug, it is very important to research carefully.
You have to apply some sort of “topic sorting” to things and decide which things are too trivial or too irrelevant for you to fight. At the same time, do not pass on information that you are not very confident about to other people, because it may be relevant or important to them and may even be harmful if they are not critical of it and ultimately believe it.
Determining whether a statement is true or false can be tricky, and there is no such thing as absolute precision, but with the simplest of filters you can get 90% there.
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