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  • Writer's pictureanimaleduk

THAT'S FAKE NEWS!

There’s a lot of false information out there. Whether it’s misunderstanding, misleading, or just straight up deliberate lies, there is a lot of ‘fake news’ flying around, even from sources we should be able to trust (i.e. the government...)


So how do we know what to believe? How do we sort fact from fiction? How do we figure out who or what to trust?




RESEARCH SKILLS!


As far as we’re concerned, there are two main steps when it comes to avoiding misinformation.


STEP 1

Don’t blindly believe anything you see. Question everything, especially if it sounds ‘sensational’ - and double-especially if it’s in a newspaper, magazine, or on social media.


STEP 2

Question and evaluate the source. Step 1 was the easy step, but step 2 can take a bit of practice. Once you've got the hang of being a more discerning reader and checking your facts, it’ll soon become second nature. Here are some example questions you could ask yourself about the source before you decide to believe that piece of 'breaking news':

  • Is it a primary source? If a news article references a scientific paper, read the paper, not the article. Journalists are notorious for cherry picking and skewing statistics to suit their narrative

  • Is it in-date? When is the research from?

  • Is it in a reputable scientific journal, or supported by trusted scientific organisations?

  • Are the results of the research reproducible? Is the method sound, and has it been described in a manner that would allow another scientist to precisely replicate the method?

  • Is the research peer-reviewed?

  • Who wrote the research? What is the background of the author/s? (for example, economists may often have a financial bias rather than an ethical one)

  • Who funded the research? Is there a conflict of interest? For example, if an environmental study was funded by oil corporations, maaaaaaybe don’t believe that study.

  • Side note: remember that statistics are very, very easy to manipulate and skew in the direction that an author wants to convey. Be as perceptive and critical as you can, even with seemingly reputable sources.

If you’ve decided that the research seems sound (it is up-to-date, peer-reviewed, reproducible research without any apparent conflicts of interest), then you can go ahead and share that information in good conscience. Good job, researcher!


If you haven’t done this research, please try not to spread potential misinformation. Not only is it misleading and can cause confusion, but in many cases, it can also be dangerous. Just look at what happened after the most recent presidential election. Disgraced and twice-impeached former president Donald Trump and his supporters knowingly spread false (and thoroughly debunked) claims that there had been mass voter fraud during the election. This was one of several reasons that right-wing extremists then stormed the Capitol in a riot that left five dead and many more injured.


Fake news is not 'a little white lie'. Fake news can literally kill. If that’s not a good enough reason to try and avoid spreading it, we don’t know what is!


 

As always, thanks for reading, and remember to always keep learning (and discerning)!


-- Charlie and Tiana

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