Is It Truth, or Propaganda?
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 conducts fact checks of 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 that 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
- Look out for “whataboutism”, an old Soviet-era tactic of deflecting criticism by citing others’ wrongdoings to create a sense of moral relativism.
- Beware of communications that seem to come from friends and relatives or people and sources you respect. They may be entirely bogus. Also, don’t trust “clickbait” – those sensational yet intriguing stories that appear on social media 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.
For more information about how to separate truth from misinformation, check out our three-part series on the subject.
Thanks for reading! If you’re concerned about misinformation and want to help support truth and facts, please take the Truth in Discourse pledge of honesty in communications. You can learn more here. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with friends and family to push back against fake news. Here are some suggestions:
Facebook: You never know when you may become the target of someone’s fake news or disinformation efforts. Leverage these five tips to help you determine whether the content you’re reading is fact or fiction: https://bit.ly/3Bho0aa #propaganda #disinformation #fakenews
Twitter: Follow these guidelines to help guard against the #disinformation & #propaganda out there & spot the difference between #facts & fiction: https://bit.ly/3Bho0aa