Leticia Cislinschi Sarraf

What if everybody checked the news before sharing it?

If you are someone who reads the news, listens to the radio on your way to work, watches TV or even accesses Facebook/Twitter once in a while, you are familiar with the term “Fake News”.

It became scandalous in the 2016 election – some people (and studies) suggest that fake news played a significant role in depressing Hillary Clinton’s support on Election Day, but fake news has been part of politics since Hitler (at least). At that time to increase its power in the German parliament the Nazi party disseminated photographs, newspapers, slogans and other materials.

Information is one of the most precious things in a democracy. It guarantees that people know what is going on and after comprehending all the sides decide, what they believe is better for their lives/city/state/country. Fake news has the power to confuse and influence people – affecting society in very dangerous ways. Imagine if somebody started saying a new research study revealed that sugar is actually good for our body? People will increase their consumption and – as we know – it will not have a good outcome.

With social media and communication advances, anybody can write something online – and some of those people may not have the best intentions. Now, imagine if everyone started to verify information is true before sharing it with his or her friends? You may say, “I am a dreamer”, but it is easy if you try – and the only way to protect yourself.

Here are some tips about what to do when you are not sure if a content is true or not:

  1. Who is saying that? If you have a neighbor or a coworker who keeps gossiping about everybody how likely, will you be to believe him or her if they share an unusual story? You probably will not believe them because the person has proven they already have a lying background. The same thing happens with the news: if the website you are reading is known to be untrustworthy, you should – at least – suspect of the information.
  2. Does it bring any other source to confirm what is being said? Truth articles bring at least 2 (but normally more) specialists/resources to confirm the theory. It also should give you both sides of the story, so you can make your own conclusions about the fact.
  3. Check the date! Sometimes, that information really did happen, but it may have been 5-10 years ago in a completely different context. Dates and context can change everything. Make sure to check when the source and what was going on at the time before you form an opinion.
  4. Read the whole thing. News in general often uses sensationalist headlines to catch your attention. It is fundamental to read the whole thing to understand what the article is about before sharing it with others.
  5. Google it! If something big happened, it is rare that only one news channel will know about it – the exception is breaking news, but all the others will share it. If you have only found one source talking about that fact, it is better to keep your heads up.
  6. Don’t be lazy: In the end, you‘re the one being impacted by the news (being it true or not) and nobody likes to be deceived. Suspect, research, and do not accept everything as absolute truth.

I hope someday you will join us on this journey to weed out fake news and we will all feel safer when we need to make a decision.

-Written by Leticia Cislinschi Sarraf

Leticia is a graduate student in VIU’s School of Business and has written a number of articles for our blog.