WE are the problem.
There’s an instinct to point fingers; to find someone to blame for the information hellscape in which we now find ourselves. Every day one tech giant or another is forced to play defense, whether it’s Facebook being called out yet again for letting advertisers exclude audiences by race or Twitter bending to the whims of white nationalists who want to target reporters. Because we can’t quit the products, we become desperate for the companies to save us from ourselves. For more, read this article on WIRED.
When something “sounds right” to us we forward it – we promote Fake News. When something “sounds wrong” we ignore it. If it was true even though we didn’t like it, we promote Fake News. Unless we get into the habit of being careful and – at the least – waiting for more info, we’re part of the problem.
It usually takes only minutes to check. Until you have checked – whether that’s quick, or you can’t find it – WAIT. Don’t forward! Adding ‘Dunno if this true, but . . ‘ doesn’t help. Don’t Forward. Just as we are in lockdown and social distance, so we need to Break The Chain of information that we don’t know is true. Don’t Forward it. Let it die in your ‘inbox.’ Rather write your own post to trusted friends asking ‘Do you know anything (not just ‘heard of’) about the rumour about ‘X’?’
There are many ways to check: Wait to see if the story comes up on News 24 or Mail & Guardian or Eye Witness News. Or go to specialist fact-checking sites like these (remembering always that ALL humans have bias – no site magically gives THE ONLY CORRECT viewpoint – keep reading, keep checking):
snopes.com – ‘the definitive internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.’
Africa Check: Africa’s first independent fact-checking organisation with offices in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal and the UK checking claims made by public figures and the media in Africa.
- Politifact Pulitzer Prize wining site run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times (Florida) newspaper. “PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by U.S elected officials and others who speak up in American politics…. The PolitiFact state sites are run by news organizations that have partnered with the Times.” Read about their principles under ‘About Us.’
- FactCheck.org “FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania….a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for U.S voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.”
- FlackCheck “Headquartered at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, FlackCheck.org is the political literacy companion site to the award-winning FactCheck.org. The site provides resources designed to help viewers recognize flaws in arguments in general and political ads in particular.”
- OpenSecrets.org “Nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit, the Center for Responsive Politics is the nation’s premier research group tracking money in U.S politics and its effect on elections and public policy.”
- Fact Check (Washington Post) “The purpose of this Web site, and an accompanying column in the Sunday print edition of The Washington Post, is to “truth squad” the statements of political figures regarding issues of great importance, be they national, international or local.”
Duke Reporters’ Lab: Fact Checking Includes a database of global fact-checking sites, which can be viewed as a map or as a list; also includes how they identify fact-checkers.
International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles The International Fact-Checking Network “is a forum for fact-checkers worldwide hosted by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.”