In today’s information age, knowing how to spot MIS-information is more important than ever.
With the rise of social media, anyone can share anything they want without regard for accuracy. As a result, misinformation has been spreading like a dangerous wildfire.
So how can you avoid being fooled by misinformation?
Here are seven ways to spot misinformation:
1. See if other reliable sources are reporting the same thing.
Do a quick Google search to see what other credible sources say about the same topic or story.
Click the three dots to the right of the search result link to pull up Google’s “About this Result” popup. The popup will give you some quick information about the source.
Click “More about this page” to find more information about the source’s reliability. You’ll see what other trusted websites have to say about this source. And, it’ll list when Google first indexed the site. So you’ll know that it wasn’t created just yesterday.
Google’s “About this Result” will also tell if another entity owns the source. And it will even let you know when Google can’t find much information about the source, which could be a red flag.
2. Go Deeper Than the Headlines.
Headlines are designed to grab your attention, so take them with a grain of salt. Read beyond the headline to get the whole story.
The most extreme example is “Click Bait,” which is usually deceptive advertising. Advertisers use a misleading headline to get you to click on a link to see content that isn’t what you expect.
The site might start to look like a real news article, but by the end, it’s trying to sell you on something. Scrolling down to the bottom first can often reveal the page’s true motive.
3. Be cautious of videos.
With today’s technology, creating “Deep Fakes” is easy.
A deep fake is a video or audio that has been edited to make it look realistic but is not actually real.
To spot a deep fake video, pay attention to the details in the face like facial hair, moles, and the size and color of the lips while talking. Do the shadows look wrong? Are there reflections in the glasses? Does the blinking look natural?
Unfortunately, deep fakes will get even harder to identify as the technology continues to improve.
Try googling “Deep Fake” followed by the person and action shown in the video. See if anyone has already reported it as a deep fake.
Youtube has some pretty astonishing known deep fakes. By watching these videos, you can help train your eyes to spot deep fake videos in the future.
The most concerning thing about deep fakes is that they can make people question whether a real video has been faked.
4. Don’t always believe what you see in photos.
You can use Google’s reverse image search to learn more about a photo’s origin.
First, right-click the image and select “Copy image address.” Then head to Google and click “Images” in the top right. Next, click the camera icon, and paste in the address of the image you just copied.
Using Google Image Search can help you identify where the picture came from and how old it is. It can also help determine if anyone has manipulated the photo.
Screenshots are sometimes photoshopped to make it look like they are from a major news organization. Be skeptical if the screenshot doesn’t have a link to the original story on the news site. Check to see if the story is actually on the original website before you believe it.
5. Be Skeptical on Social Media.
Social media platforms are designed to be addictive. They use computer algorithms to show you content that will keep you engaged on the site for as long as possible.
The algorithm doesn’t know when it’s serving you misinformation; it’s just giving you what it thinks you want to see.
This often leads to “confirmation bias,” which means you’re only exposed to information that agrees with your existing beliefs. And you’re not receiving information that contradicts your pre-existing beliefs. So, you don’t question it.
When you see something on social media, take a step back and think about it critically. Who is the source? What do you know about this person or organization? Are they an expert on this topic? Do they have a history of being reliable?
Also, consider the context. What else is happening in the world that might be affecting how you’re interpreting this information?
Don’t believe everything you see on social media.
Cross-check stories you see on social media with other reputable sources before sharing. See if other people are talking about it. Are people questioning it’s authenticity?
Also, take a close look at the account sharing the story. Does the account have a history of sharing accurate information?
6. Always ask yourself three simple questions.
The Stanford History Education Group suggests asking yourself:
- Who is behind the information?
- What’s the evidence?
- What are other sources saying?
These three questions can help you start to evaluate any claims being made.
7. Keep your emotions in check.
Don’t let your anger or fear get the best of you. Cool down before sharing the story on Social Media. Unfortunately, anger and fear are the primary tools used to manipulate us.
So try to let negative emotions be a red flag that someone might be trying to manipulate you. You can reconsider posting if you still feel the same after a good night’s sleep.
And try to remain patient. News stories often circulate quicker than the known facts about an ongoing event. So, don’t jump to conclusions. Wait until all the information has surfaced before making a judgment.
I hope you found these tips helpful. Next time you come across a piece of information that seems too good to be true, take a step back and consider if it might be misinformation. Be skeptical and do your research before you believe or share anything you see online.
Checking for other sources, examining the evidence, and keeping your emotions in check can go a long way in avoiding being manipulated by misinformation.
Do you have any other tips for spotting misinformation? Leave them below in the comments.