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.
Here are 3 easy steps to avoid posting fake or sensational news on your social media accounts:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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. If a study observes evidence to the contrary, that is not conclusive. 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?