Worldwide, we all have become global information societies. The ease at which information is transmitted and shared instantaneously around the world outpaces the ability to verify it sometimes. How do we know the information is accurate or trustworthy?
Inundated with information from family and friends, news organizations, educational institutions, private companies, governments, and non-profit organizations, we are left to piece it all together to make sense of it all. It can be daunting and confusing.
The Poynter Institute offers a one-hour course on fact-checking online information. In addition, here are tips for you to use to trust the information you are reading:
- Check the source of information. Ensure that the information you receive is from a trusted source. But just because it comes from a trusted source does not mean that you should automatically accept it as truth. You should ensure that it has not been hacked or improperly spread from that source.
- Quality of content. Is the information well written? Can the information be supported and verified by facts? Encyclopedia Britannica defines propaganda as communication that is primarily used to influence or persuade an audience to further an agenda. The information may not be objective and may selectively present facts to encourage a particular synthesis or perception. The content originator will also use loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is being presented. The originator will use narrative elements designed to play on the readers’ emotions based on an individual or group’s values. The intent is to manipulate to persuade the audience rather than to educate an audience to allow them to make an informed decision.
- Verify with multiple sources. Double check any information with more than one source. If there are elements that appear fantastical or grand in nature, look for more than one source to verify them. Make sure you do not fall into an “echo chamber” of information that only confirms or conforms to your individual or group worldview. You can easily refute manipulative information if you double and triple-check the source of information.
- The credibility of information. Finally, ensure what you are reading is fact-based and not opinion-based information. Be careful when reading information if it cannot be attributed to a source. Well researched studies and information are always more trustworthy from experts than opinion-based information. The experts you trust must also come from sources supported within a community of accepted peers. This may seem to contradict my previous point about groupthink, but a community of experts with whom information is verifiable and supported amongst a community of peers.
When reading the information, assess if the originator is exhibiting Unethical Communication Behavior.