The high stakes of fake news and internet lies

A few months ago I wrote an article about curating your content to gain a competitive advantage in life and in business. (read) Recent events have made me revisit my thoughts.

A person can find the answer to nearly anything on the internet. Google it. YouTube will show you how. But don’t believe everything you read.  Not everything that is published on the internet is true.

A Washington Post article highlighted the very serious stakes of misinformation (read full article). During the recent presidential election, fake news was propagated via several social media channels. Botnets, networks and paid internet ‘trolls’ were used to push both fringe extremist news and completely fake news with specific agendas intended to bias American voters. These highly sophisticated propaganda engines exploited social media algorithms in a type of informational warfare. To make matters worse, the effort was aided by unknowing individuals that blindly liked, shared, and forwarded the misinformation. People tagged with an old cold-war term – ‘useful idiots.’

Ouch.

Through blind acceptance of what is put on the internet, one may have unwittingly contributed to undermining our election process, and some folks may have made their choice for US President based on lies. In fact, a recent Stanford research study, as reported by NPR (read full article) found “Students Have ‘Dismaying’ Inability To Tell Fake News From Real.'”  The study assessed students and found they struggled to distinguish ads from articles, neutral sources from biased ones, and fake accounts from real ones.” Judging from my Facebook feed and cocktail party conversations, I’d say it isn’t just students who struggle in this area.

Add to this issue the plethora of self-proclaimed ‘experts’ who peddle today’s version of snake oil cures online and at a home party near you. Get rich/beautiful/slim in 30 days and other such schemes can lure in the unsuspecting customer who isn’t scanning for trouble.

So what is a person to do? Don’t believe everything you read.

Don’t put important decisions into others’ hands. You need to be your own censor. It is up to you to be aware and be discerning about the information you consume and the sources you trust. This is especially important if you will be making personal, business, or nationally important decisions with the information. The more important the decision/action/results, the more you have a responsibility to ensure you are acting on correct — and complete — information.

The important note is that regardless of platform, you are in control of the content you consume.

– E. Gallegos

In my last post I issued a challenge to “create a new habit of being deliberate about your media choices. Curate your content.”  This week I have a new challenge: create a new habit of fact-checking your information. Verify your content.

 

  1. Is this the complete story?
    A half truth or missing facts can make something seem different than it really is.
    Action: Check the fine print. Ensure you have all of the information.
  2. Is this information biased? 
    Check the source. Do they have something to gain? Is the information ‘sponsored’ —  which means bought by — someone who is trying to sway your actions?
    Action: Find the opposite, or an unbiased, perspective.
  3. Is this too good to be true?
    If something is too easy, too amazing, too perfectly aligned with your needs, be cautious. Don’t click that link. Don’t download the attachment. Don’t give your time, money, or anything else just yet.
    Action: Check the news/offer/information through a verified information source.
  4. Is this too bad to be true?
    Is it too extreme, too shocking? Some people just want to spread fear, hate, and trouble. Don’t let them use you to do it.
    Action: Check the news through a verification site like Snopes.com. Before you share, tweet, repeat —  ensure it is true.

Don’t be a useful idiot. Be careful what you put into your mind.

 

The high stakes of fake news and internet lies

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