DISINFORMATION

WHY IT MATTERS

Developments in the last few years have placed journalism under fire. A range of factors are transforming the communications landscape, raising questions about the quality, impact and credibility of journalism. At the same time, orchestrated campaigns are spreading untruths - disinformation, mal-information, and misinformation - that are often unwittingly shared on social media:
 

  • Disinformation: Information that is false and deliberately created to harm a person, social group, organization or country
     

  • Misinformation: Information that is false but not created with the intention of causing harm
     

  • Mal-information: Information that is based on reality, used to inflict harm on a person, social group, organization or country.

- UNESCO

5 ways to spot disinformation on your social media feeds

Disinformation is everywhere. Here's how to sort real news from fake news.  ABC News, 1/7/2020

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Make sure you are getting good information that feeds your intellect well.

 

Sources that feed us outrage is like eating junk food. It feels good; it’s 'staying informed', it’s 'raising awareness'. But outrage without action is exhausting, so a drip-feed of outrage—that is, outrageous news stories that you can’t do anything about—will wear you down and make you feel hopeless.

Here are some important tips on how to practice good self-care:

“Even well-informed folks can fall subject to misinformation from time to time, especially in today's media-saturated world when fear and emotions are high. As such, I'd like to share some well-articulated points from an Indivisible San Francisco leader about how to consume news responsibly and effectively and hopefully help preserve our sanity during these trying times.  (full text here)

 

1. Don't watch TV news, which tends toward “breaking news” (of which not all the facts are known), moment-to-moment coverage (lacking analysis and background), and outrage drips (rather than in-depth reporting on more substantive and/or actionable issues).


2. Especially don't watch cable TV news, which so often conflates news reporting with commentary. (A particularly favored tactic on the right, but it's also a lot of what MSNBC does, and to a lesser extent CNN.) Commentary both presents a particular point of view (often centrist, on cable TV) and often resorts to “what if” speculation. Remember Betteridge's Law*.

3. Don't substitute similar drip-feeds for TV news. (E.g., don't follow MSNBC on Twitter/Facebook.)

 

4. Be vigilant about whom you follow on social media. If someone is whipping up outrage, misrepresenting stories, failing to cite sources, etc., unfollow them, mute them, or even block them. Definitely do not retweet/like/share.


5. Subscribe to newspapers, especially non-profit newspapers (I tend to sing the praises of the SF Public Press, which is local to the City). Subscribe to your local NPR and/or PBS affiliate. ProPublica is also good.
 

6. If you hear about a story that concerns you, look it up on Google News. Look for the original source, which should be a trustworthy source like Washinton Post (if it isn't, disregard the story entirely). Find the facts and work from there to find out what you/we can do about it, or what we can pressure lawmakers to do about it.

7. Always read the article. Never stop at the headline, social-media blurb, etc. Take no action until you have read the article.

8. Sometimes the answer to “what can I/we do” is nothing, in which case the only thing to do is put it out of your mind and channel yourfr energy into something you can do something about. Outrage without action is exhausting; I don't recommend it.

9. Research is a possible action. If you have some free time, consider putting it to researching something the news media didn't/hasn't. Find the history behind the story, and let it expand your understanding of the issues and your vision of possible future directions. Consider writing up your findings as a blog post.

 

*Betteridge's Law: If a headline is phrased in the form of a question, the answer is no. (If it were yes, the headline would be phrased as a statement, and the article would contain facts to support it.)"

DEEP DIVE

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