Access to a broader information field in the digital age is a double-edged sword. While social media allows you to get faster access to information, it also exposes individuals to an abundance of unreliable information.
In times of conflict, it is crucial to skillfully navigate the vast sea of media and critically assess your sources. Various tools can warp reality and sway your perspective, such as propaganda, media bias, and disinformation. Before spreading unreliable news to your friends and family, it’s pivotal to evaluate the legitimacy of the news. Here are some ways you may have been misled and sources to become an educated media citizen.
One of the common fake news methods is disinformation. Not to be confused with misinformation.
Disinformation refers to the deliberate use of false information for misleading and deceiving purposes. Misinformation is not deliberate but still constitutes inaccurate or misleading details presented as factual. These deceptive tactics are frequently utilized by fake news outlets, news, and individual accounts on social media. To avoid falling prey to such tactics, cross-reference information among reliable media news outlets with investigative and fact-checking teams.
The International Fact-Checking Network by Poynter (IFCN) is a network of fact-checkers dedicated to upholding the standards of fact-checking in journalism. They have established a Code of Principles that is signed by more than 100 news and fact-checking organizations.
Also, the Poynter Institute, platform for journalism, provides online courses and webinars on both fact-checking and media literacy for teens, adults, elderly and media professionals.
(Poynter Institute website: https://www.poynter.org/mediawise/programs/)
(IFCN website: https://ifcncodeofprinciples.poynter.org/signatories)
Even the biggest news publications are not immune to media bias. While having a particular bias does not disregard the credibility and reliability of the source, it undeniably shapes how news is perceived. A reader might lean towards a preference in a source, left or right, based on their own values. However, it’s crucial to be aware of how presentations can influence others’ perspectives.
Acknowledging the existence of bias is one step, but another effective strategy is to consume non-partisan, aka unbiased,news.
An easy way to check bias is through Media Bias/Fact Check, a website that observes deceptive news practices and media bias, through quantitative metrics and qualitative assessments. You can also access evaluations of news outlets based on factors such as factual accuracy, transparency, and credibility. This comprehensive approach aids in making more informed choices about the information you consume.
(Media Bias/Fact Check website: https://mediabiasfactcheck.com)
Easy to share and provoke emotions, another major deceptive tool is visual disinformation. It’s AI-generated images, manipulated images, deep-fakes, and more.
Social media lacks tools to verify the legibility of images. Once you engage with content, algorithms often continue showing you similar images and videos, disregarding the reliability of their sources.
The image could be altered to spread a false message or authentic, but purposely used in the wrong context, presenting itself as captured during a specific event.
The first tool you can use is reverse image search, like TinEye or Google Reverse Image Search. You can trace the origin of the image and how and where it’s been applied. (TinEye website: https://tineye.com)
For photos suspected of being edited, confirmation could be obtained through image forensics. Forensically and FotoForensics are helpful websites that can perform noise analysis of a picture, revealing differences in pixel density. The difference in density across various parts of the photo can serve as an indication of image alteration.
(Forensically website: https://29a.ch/photo-forensics/#forensic-magnifier) (FotoForensics website: https://www.imageforensic.org)
The fact-checking team at DW (Deutsche Welle) News provides a checklist for readers when consuming online news. Additionally, they offer a separate checklist for identifying deep-fakes, AI-generated images, manipulated visuals, and propaganda.
(Credit: DW News)
The News Literacy Project, a nonpartisan educational nonprofit, is dedicated to cultivating more engaged and informed individuals. They offer tips, tools, and quizzes presented in easily understandable descriptive infographics on media literacy. Furthermore, they provide a digital platform containing resources and courses focused on enhancing media literacy.
(Credit: The News Literacy Project) (News literacy tools by The News Literacy Project: https://newslit.org/tips-tools/)
A fun and straightforward way to learn the concept of fake news is through a game.
Bad News is a publicly accessible media literacy tool designed in the form of a game. Created by researchers at the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab, it helps users familiarize themselves with common manipulation techniques, especially on social media.
In the context of X (Twitter), players take on the role of a fake news source, encouraging the use of polarizing, propagandizing, and manipulative techniques to boost their following. By applying the role of an unreliable source, you gain insight into how manipulators operate and how you are a subject of influence.
(Link to the Bad News Game: https://www.getbadnews.com/en)
By adopting these practices of verification—consultingtrustworthy news sources, analyzing, and exercising critical judgment—you can contribute to a more discerning and informed society.
by Aini Yeskhozhina