The global information war is raging, and it’s getting really hard to separate truth from lie. However, with a few basic tricks, there is a way through the web of deceit.
Foremost, it’s important to take every piece of information with a pinch of salt. Facts can be interpreted in different ways. That is legitimate. Facts can be faked. That’s not legitimate, but unfortunately very common.
The key approach to steering clear of info traps is
1 – Never rely on one source for your information. This is KEY.
The fewer sources you use, the higher the risk of falling prey to deliberate misinformation. This doesn’t mean you have to wade through tons of news. Three or four sources from different parts of the media spectrum, also in terms of geo location, should give you an overview of what really is going on in the world. For example, being based in Europe, I use a mixture of The Guardian (an excellent independent British newspaper), CNN, BBC, and various German online media. I understand that language can be an issue sometimes. But there are independent media outlets that publish in other languages than English.
2 – If there is only one source available in your geo location, a virtual private network (VPN) might be the solution. This gives you access to the web, even if it is restricted in your part of the globe.
Assuming you have found a few sources, how do you know they are reliable? Here’s a checklist. The more “yes” you score on a source, the more dodgy it is.
- Check the central message of a news item. Fake News sources often push one message repeatedly, have an aggressive tone, and make outrageous claims.
- What sources are quoted? Fake news either quote no sources or make claims that can’t be verified.
- Check the web for other articles on the same subject. Do they give the same basic information even if the conclusion or “spin” on the topic is different? This means the facts as such are more likely to be correct.
- Be very wary about sources suggested to you. Based on your reading preferences, algorithms will push only a certain type of news at you, even if you theoretically have free access to more information on the web. Actively ensure a good mix of info.
- If you are in doubt, turn to fact checkers. FactCheck.org, Snopes.com, PolitiFact.com are widely trusted fact-checking websites (unfortunately, they are quite US-news centric). What do they say about a news story?
Sometimes, news can be hard to take. They might not tell you what you want to hear (which is, unfortunately, a sign they’re more likely to be close to the truth); they can be upsetting. Fake News will reflect only the messages you are meant to see, will force you to draw conclusions someone wants you to draw. Fake news mess with your mind; they make you act in a certain way that serves another person’s interest.
Don’t allow others to pull your strings!