The advancement in technology and access to the internet over time has aided in amplifying misinformation. The tools and means for disseminating information are no longer in the exclusive preserve of the traditional media; as such, an individual is bound to come across all sorts of information.
Here are some steps towards avoiding, consuming and or spreading misinformation:
Once you get a forwarded message, it is essential to question the source. How credible is the individual that shared the information? Has the person shared a misleading statement in the time past? Answering these first-layer questions could help make informed decisions on a viral post received through social media.
If it’s on a website, check the ‘about us’ section, this should give you information on the leanings of the platform.
Sometimes, old news is shared as new to mislead the public deliberately. Checking the date on an article or post on social media could make a significant difference before hitting the forward /share button.
An image, quote or event that happened elsewhere can be said to be of something else. Such misleading posts like the case of a concrete column in Asia shared as a crack on third mainland bridge in Nigeria are not uncommon.
Being aware that a piece of factual information can be placed in a wrong context will aid in consuming information with a bit of scepticism.
If you are sceptical about the authenticity of an article or claim, one of the steps to take is to subject the report to an internet search. Copy the headline or parts of the information and paste it on a search engine such as Google.
If the information appears on credible media platforms and or government websites and social media, the chances are higher that it is authentic.
On the contrary, if such claims are found only on blogs and soft sell magazines, the chances that it is false is higher.
Note that searches can also be conducted on video hosting platforms like YouTube.
Who is the Author?
In this era of the internet or digital age, a lot of people have a digital footprint. In other words, people can easily be contacted either through their social media handles or personal websites, which often contain their contact details.
So, to verify the authenticity of an article shared on social media, you could reach out to the author, if necessary, to seek clarifications. And this could be done through the author’s social media handle (s).
This could be by talking to professionals in the area, or it could simply be going to the website and or social media of the individuals or government agency to verify.
Some organisations have a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section that provides answers. Some websites have a search box where you search using keywords.
For instance, in the area of herbal cure for COVID-19, experts such as virologists, public health professionals, and often, the World Health Organisation (WHO) online resources hosted on its website could be found handy to invalidate misinformation about the pandemic and other diseases.
Visit websites of professional bodies, international organisations of repute to verify the information.
Also, speaking to friends, relatives who are experts in the field can help provide better insights.
In its literary meaning, satires are used to expose wrongdoings, usually in a hilarious or exaggerated manner. It comprises two important variables – “It makes fun of a person, idea or institution, and secondly, its purpose is not just to entertain, but also to inform or make people think.” A good instance is punocracy, a blog that publishes the government’s inadequacies in a humourous manner.
However, satire websites have also been a source of misinformation. The FactCheckHub has verified multiple pieces of information that were found to have originated from satire websites that were being circulated as factual.
An example was when a satire post from Babylon bee went viral in Nigeria that iPhone 13 requires COVID-19 vaccination before it can be used. Most satire websites are labelled as such. This can often be found in the ‘about us’ section.
Read beyond the headline
Some blogs and media platforms use sensational or clickbait to attract readership. As such, it is essential to always read beyond the headline.
A 2016 study detailed how six in 10 persons would easily share a story without reading it just because of the headline.
Reading beyond the headline will not only give you the whole story but also stop you from spreading misinformation.
Reach out to Fact-Checking platforms
Search Fact-Checking websites
Platforms like the FactCheckHub has verified multiple claims. Using keywords, you can search the database to see if the claim in question has been verified already. You can limit your search to get results only from the FactCheckHub via here, or you can search multiple fact-checking platforms via here.