We’ve probably all had a friend or family member send a message or share an article with false information, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. While they mean well, they could be spreading harmful misinformation across the web. Here’s how I’ve responded to help correct the issue.
How To Say “This is false”
When I receive a message from a relative or close friend that looks like spam or false information, I usually let them know. A simple, “hey, this looks fake” followed by an explanation can help educate someone without sounding like you are accusing or belittling them. It’s more helpful to point out key indicators of false information so the person who shared it can know what to look out for going forward, such as teaching them the SIFT method or other research techniques. You can also ask questions such as where they saw or got this information and why they trust or believe in it.
The SIFT Method
Stop: Before you share that article or image circulating through your inbox or timeline, stop and think about whether you know or trust the source. Did you read the whole article? Did you click on any links to verify the sources?
Investigate: Look for facts that are backed up by reputable sources and do some investigation on the author and publisher. Do they have an agenda or bias? Are they considered trustworthy?
Find: Check trusted sources for similar information, especially if the message is framed as important or breaking news; chances are, other articles are discussing the same thing. Is this information exclusive, or are multiple platforms sharing the news? How many sources are present?
Trace: Check all claims, quotes, and media. If the article has an image or video, determine its source. Is it the full video, or just as clip? Has it been edited or is it missing vital parts? What is the context?
Avoiding the Spread of Misinformation
In a study by the Pew Research Center, data analysts discovered that people who look to social media for their news are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories and misinformation. The internet and social media is vast, with a lot of people, opinions, and information. This presents good things by bridging gaps in communication, while also allowing false or fake information to spread easily and quickly. It is each user’s responsibility to ensure they are participating online in a positive manner to prevent the spread of misinformation.