We live in an age where fake news and disinformation are running rampant. Elections and other world events hang in the balance. It’s more important now than ever to have the skill set needed to understand if what you’re reading online is true.
Below are some tips to help you decide whether you can place your trust in the next bit of online information you find.
Suggestions for Understanding If What You’re Reading Online is True
Think About it Critically
There are lots of questions you can ask about the next news story you read. Some of these include:
- Who wrote the story? – A reputable news source typically publishes authors’ names. At the very least, you should be able to contact the editor.
- When was it published? – Sometimes old stories receive a new life online. They may be out of date or no longer accurate when you come across them.
- Is this too far-fetched? – Think about what the story is telling you. If it feels like there’s no way this could possibly happen, that could be a red flag. Your news source may be favoring a particular side.
- Is this similar to other stories I’ve read? – If all the stories that you read share a similar bias, you might be in an online news bubble. That’s a good indication that the news you’re receiving is biased. A healthy news diet will include a variety of perspectives, just like a healthy nutritional diet includes a variety of vegetables.
- Can you trust the sources? – A trusted news outlet names its sources. They’ll include credible data, statistics, and other necessary information to back up the points being made.
Seek Out Established, Responsible Sources
The mainstream media is under a barrage of heat these days. They face a lot of criticism, and much of it may be warranted. However, the fact remains that they pay professional journalists to write their stories.
These journalists abide by established practices designed to uphold their integrity, and that of their publications. All of this results in higher-quality information. Consuming news from these sources is a good way to ensure that what you’re reading online is true.
Think About Why You’re Seeing This Post
If you are on social media and you click on a specific news story, you’re essentially voting for the content you’ll receive. There are algorithms in place designed to show you more, similar content.
This can lead you down a rabbit hole of biased or untrue information.
When In Doubt, Don’t Share
The purveyors of fake news and disinformation are alarmingly good at playing on your emotions. They understand that anger sells. It’s important to separate yourself from that feeling for a moment to think about whether what you’re reading is plausible or not.
If it didn’t come from a quality news source, maybe you can see if a quality news source published a similar article. But if you have any doubt about what you’re currently reading, it’s best not to share.
When you share disinformation, it only benefits those who wrote it – and those it was created to support.
Read Outside of Your Bubble
When you only receive news from social media, you’re likely in a media bubble created by the algorithms feeding you similar stories to the one you read before. It may feel good to reinforce your worldview, but you are likely achieving that with less than stellar information.
In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to achieve a news balance. You can still get your news through the websites or paper publications from reputable sources. It takes more effort to find this information. You can only read social media news that comes from these reputable sources.
It takes more effort, but if you follow these steps, you can be more confident that what you’re reading online is true.