How to Verify Information to Avoid Spreading Fake News

How to Verify Information to Avoid Spreading Fake News

Ever wondered how the fake news mongers caught you off guard? Have you ever shared news only to be notified shortly after that it is fake? What about passing information that you were later told is incorrect? And being punished for disseminating information to the wrong parties?

All these are what most of us experience that made us thread softly when information comes to our table. Many of us try as much as possible to verify what we hear and read before sharing to avoid embarrassments and retributions. But a lot of people might decide to ignore information because they can’t tell whether it’s fake or not. Ignoring may sound great here except that if it authentic news that needs to be shared, ignoring it may prove disastrous later. Nevertheless, you need to find out how authentic that information is before you even consider disseminating it.

Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s minister of information

Detecting the authenticity of information requires applying some skills. In academic research, there are several evaluation methods that can be applied to information before it is considered reliable and objective. For instance, the CRAAP (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose) test helps researchers to avoid picking information from wrong sources. This test can also be adopted for non-academic purposes. Hence, to break it down to layman’s terms, before information is circulated, a person should consider its source, the supporting sources used, its intended audience, the objectivity of the information, date of publication, and expert’s opinions.

  1. The Source: Here, you have to ask yourself where the information came from and the qualification/authority of the source. For instance, it will be out of place for a medical student to drop information on law that challenges the opinion of a SAN. It will equally be out of place for a lawyer to publish a controversial opinion on medical practices that requires expert handling. Hence, consider the source/origin of the information and if you doubt its authority, please, discard it immediately.
  2. Supporting Sources: If the source claims that he is narrating based on a personal experience, well, you might consider sharing the news but citing him all the same. However, if he says he got the information from someone else, please, demand for the identity of the supporting source and verify its authenticity and authority. If he is not ready to disclose it, claiming his source must remain anonymous, please be careful. This is the problem currently disturbing many media organisations.
  3. The Audience: Don’t fly out with information without checking who it is meant for. Sometimes, especially in our places of work, we come across news that is meant for, say, the management and spread it to the wrong persons. This also applies to other aspects of life. Remember that not all information is meant for public consumption. As a result, check who information is meant for before sharing.
  4. Objectivity of the Information: Always ask yourself the reason behind any information you received. Is it there to inform, persuade, incite, insult, mock, and so on? Check if the information is biased or not. One way of doing this is cross-examining the source. If the source is not neutral to the matter under discussion, just understand that the information is not objective. This means he left out some vital details that would have challenged his stand. It is then left for you to dig deeper before lending your voice to the matter, unless you belong to the group in question.
  5. Date of Publication: In research, currency of information is considered before it is used. There is a reason for that. Most old ideologies have been debunked by new discoveries. Some have been modified and many dropped. Likewise, the news that came to your desk and is begging to be shared may be a stale one. Imagine how embarrassing it will be when you share it and were told it happened ten years ago and that the truth has finally surfaced. So, why not verify how current that gossip is before you throw it into the air?
  6. Expert’s Opinion: Most people do not bother seeking opinions of experts before divulging information. If you are not an expert in any field, please, don’t contribute as one. When controversial matters come to you and urge you to spread it, seek an expert’s opinion first before doing so. Believe me, it will save you a lot of “had I know”. Nevertheless, be sure the expert you approached isn’t biased.

Remember that a lot of malicious information about individuals, organisations and societies are out there. Your duty as a person is to ensure you don’t help in their circulation. If you know you won’t like someone spreading false information about you, please, desist from doing same to others.

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