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How to avoid posting fake news on social media in 3 easy steps!

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

If you value truth, then you know as well as I do that it is important to curb sharing lies. Even partial ones! Fake or sensational news is possibly more engaging on social media than clickbait ads used to be. They are usually making money off of you from website ads or else they are trying to manipulate your beliefs.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Exodus 20:16 (ESV)

Here are 3 easy steps to avoid posting fake or sensational news on your social media accounts:

  1. STOP. Don’t post something simply because it confirms your personal beliefs. Just stop. The fancy term for this is “confirmation bias”. We all have done this (I’m guilty as charged!) and it’s so easy to click that share button or to copy and paste something. It requires self control to stop ourselves.
  2. VERIFY. Check if you can verify it from a primary source. Then corroborate it by checking for a second primary source that confirms the verified source’s claim. Then do due diligence by checking against any claims made to the contrary.
  3. DISCARD. If you cannot verify the source, discard the post automatically. If you cannot corroborate the source, use careful language to indicate you are quoting a primary source (and not making a statement of fact, since a fact has not been established). There is a difference between saying “he/she says this is X” and saying “this is X”, but even then, if the source is not truthful, you run the risk of spreading something not truthful.

Primary Sources

What is a primary source? News sites and social media posts are not primary sources, unless a primary source directly posts on one of those platforms. For example, a YouTube video saying a politician wasn’t bullied is not a primary source. However, if that politician writes a guest article or a Twitter thread about their experience of being bullied, that is a primary source. At this point, it is up to your discretion of whether or not the primary source is truthful, because primary sources can still lie. This is why corroboration is also important.

Corroboration

What is corroboration? In short, it is someone reputable who was there or who read the information being claimed and is saying “I saw it too.”

For example, a Fox News or CNN article including a video snippet of Donald Trump saying something is not corroboration. Videos can be selectively edited by either of these news outlets to fit their respective agenda. Seeing an unedited video on C-SPAN, however, is a way to personally corroborate something Donald Trump said at a speech.

Another example is if a friend or news site says something is or is not healthy for you. There are medical journals that document scientific studies in detail. If the claim has been verified by means of a double-blind study (which means there was an unbiased oversight of the test, thus a primary source plus corroboration) with a large study group, it is possibly a valid observation, but not inherently proven because science doesn’t prove anything. It observes. If the study in question was not double blind and/or the study group is small or the study was short term, it is highly likely to be error prone. A library with database access to these studies is your friend.

How about you?

How much do you value the truth? Has a news source tried to fool you before? How about a meme page or a YouTube video? Did you find primary sources to the contrary? How did those you know who fell for Fake News respond when shown evidence to the contrary? Did they dig their heels in? Apologize but keep the fake post up? Remove the post? How much do they value the truth?

7 replies on “How to avoid posting fake news on social media in 3 easy steps!”

Good take on an important subject. TRUTH MATTERS! Our credibility is called into question when we forward/share incorrect information. We’re guilty of slander when we pass along untruths.
“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you when your name appears on a post” is an apt application of Messiah’s Golden Rule.

None of us is without bias, so checking our motives is always timely. “Is the Audience of One well pleased with what I am about to SEND?” is a great filter that would prevent much of the harmful content that gets posted. It’s hard to take back what we put out there (as I’ve learned there hard way, there is no “UNSEND” button).

Agreed! Great article. There’s one thing I’d add: Context.

Even when you use 2+ primary sources, it’s still easy to take somebody out of context. Listen to enough primary material enough times, to be sure that a particular quote isn’t sounding like the opposite of what is meant.

This is particularly true is somebody is quoting somebody else, especially somebody they disagree with.

A “sound bite” from 2+ primary sources is rarely enough to establish context.

So, maybe “STOP. VERIFY. CONTEXT. DISCARD?”

Incidentally, what you said above, plus “context” is a major part of hermeneutics and exegesis, regarding the interpretation of the Bible.

For example, simply accepting the words of a preacher, especially one who is already taking the Bible out of context (i.e., topical sermons) is a great way to shipwreck your own faith (1 Timothy 1; Matthew 7:1-6 and 7:13-29; 1 John 4:1-6; 2 Peter 2; Jude). Everything should be checked against Scripture.

The same rules apply with “posting fake news” as with “believing or spreading the teachings of false teachers.” “STOP. VERIFY. CONTEXT. DISCARD.”

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