Is It Truth, or Propaganda? How to “Vet” Your News Source
We’re all confused today about “fake news” and misinformation, which can be directly targeted to us via foreign disinformation campaigns as well as U.S.-based propaganda efforts. Here are some guidelines to determine if what you’re being told is true:
- Look for evidence to back what is being said. In other words, don’t just accept someone’s claim.
- Turn to our friend “Google.” See what is available about the topic. You may find a preponderance of news coverage or commentary that demonstrates the likelihood that a communication, especially a sensational one, is not grounded in reality.
- When evaluating information sources, keep in mind that traditional media “fact checks” its reporting and is further held in check because it can be sued for defamation if its reporting is false. Therefore, it has a higher likelihood of being true than some other sources.
- Information on social media does not carry the same checks and balances as traditional news – it’s considered a bulletin board, and there are almost no penalties for false information. Furthermore, social media companies are reluctant to tamper with content – outrageous claims fuel their profits by being shared often. So, be very wary of information that is sourced on social media.
- Watch for these propaganda techniques that can alert you to fraudulent claims:
- The “firehose of propaganda” – rapidly throwing out more and more false statements so that the listener is exhausted trying to evaluate them.
- Individuals or groups being demonized and criticized with insults.
- An argument or claim on a complicated topic that depicts it as totally black and white
- Articles with extreme content that claim to be from legitimate news sources; look for misspellings, poor grammar, lots of ads, fake mastheads, and other indications that the article was not published on that news outlet.
- “Whataboutism”, an old Soviet-era tactic of deflecting criticism by citing others’ wrongdoings to create a sense of moral relativism.
- Startling or provocative communications that seem to come from friends and relatives or people and sources you respect. They may be entirely bogus.
- “Clickbait” – those sensational yet intriguing stories that appear on social media and online, and invite you to click through to read more. The more clicks the story gets, the more money the poster receives. Some are totally fraudulent; a notorious example was a story concocted by automated online accounts about a politician running a children’s pedophilia operation out of a pizza restaurant. It was completely manufactured, yet millions saw and believed it.
Finally, to get an unbiased evaluation of the objectivity and truth of various news sources, check out this chart. If your news source is rated as biased or inaccurate, or both, you may want to consider finding other sources of information.
What do you do if you realize that your source of information is not accurate or cannot be trusted? First, you can stop reading or listening to it. Second, you can find other more reliable sources. Third, you can refrain from sharing information that you are not confident is accurate. To help stop the spread of disinformation, take the “Truth in Discourse” pledge on www.magenta-nation.com, and urge others to do likewise.
Thank you for reading this Fakchex article. Please share this article and join us in the fight to combat disinformation.
Fakchex presents short, fact-based articles and videos on topics about which there is considerable disinformation. It is the only grassroots communication program that helps people personally combat disinformation. Fakchex articles are designed for sharing with people who care about these topics, but may not be aware of the facts OR may not have time to research them on their own. Together, we can combat the powerful forces of disinformation that prevent us from coming together to realistically address our problems and opportunities.
This is a FREE program, open to all.