By Alena Visnovsky
“Bro, I read an article the other day and it said the COVID vaccine causes cancer, so dude don’t get the vaccine. Protect your body!”
I put my headphones on and withdrew into my hoodie. I honestly was too weary to try and correct my friend. Later I wondered what my friend’s source was and why on Earth that source was promoting anti-scientific propaganda. To learn why my friend was wrong, click here.
Now, to find that source I listed above, I considered the questions posed by John Green–a U.S. author, educational YouTuber and podcaster–below:
- Who is behind the information?
- Why are they sharing the information?
- What types of claims are being made? Are those claims backed up by reliable evidence and what do others say about the claims?
Are these steps fool proof? Probably not. In my opinion, few things are. But these steps are much more involved than what my friend or grandparents are doing when sharing information they just discovered.
Ideally, cautious skepticism will curb rampant misinformation. Misinformation or disinformation? Is that the same as fake news? Can we please define our terms here? Here is a reputable source to help with that.
Misinformation is false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.
Disinformation is deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or propaganda.
Fake news is purposefully crafted, sensational, emotionally charged, misleading or totally fabricated information that mimics the form of mainstream news.
Turns out my friend was spreading fake news.
To do accurate research, you need to be willing to read through more than one source, and something far more credible than Facebook or Twitter. According to a 2018 article in Kappan Online, the professional journal for educators, fact-checkers from some of the most esteemed news outlets in the U.S. research around the original information they’re fact checking versus assuming it’s completely credible.
“Only after examining other sites did they return to read the material on the original site more closely,” stated the journal. The article can be found here.
Those fact-checkers spent less time reading, but actually learned more. They sought credibility elsewhere. Instead of asking the unfamiliar source if it was trustworthy, they detoured and asked known credible sources about the unfamiliar information. Because why would you ask a potential liar if they lied to you? How would you know if they are telling the truth that time? If you ask honest people about the potential liar it’s not only more efficient, but it is also sincere.
In a 2020 article from The New Hampshire, reporter Heaven Taylor-Wynn from MediaWise said “see what multiple sources are saying, chances are everyone is going to report the same thing in a different way but you want to get a holistic view of what’s going on.”
Holistic being the operative word here. Maximum context is ideal, and big picture thinking assists the truth.
Finally, do not share this article until you’re positive it’s not misinformation or disinformation (it’s not, but you should still check).
Remember, get a second opinion, don’t be gullible and do your flipping research!