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Fake News: Avoiding Fake News

The Habit: Check Your Emotions

It's important to recognize bias in the information you read or view, but maybe more important is to recognize your own bias.

Confirmation Bias is the human tendency to seek out, interpret, focus on, and even remember information that confirms what we already believe. Conversely, we resist information that contradicts our beliefs.

Confirmation bias acts upon us in subtle ways, often eliciting and emotional response. 

As you encounter a claim or piece of information, ask your self questions like these:

  • Does this source create positive emotional reactions? Do these predispose me to agree with the source?
  • Does the source create negative reactions that make me want to disagree with it?
  • Does it validate my preexisting viewpoints?
  • Am I willing to allow new evidence to change my views?

Example: Sturgis motorcycle rally as a COVID-19 "Super Spreader" event

Move 1: Look for Trusted Sources (Fact Checking Resources)

Check these sites to see if someone else has already fact-checked the claim or provided a synthesis of research.

Move 2: Find the Original (Go Upstream)

Go “upstream” to the source of the claim. Most web content is not original. Get to the original source to understand the trustworthiness of the information and, just importantly, analyze if that source is used honestly.

Does the information include sources or links to show where the claim originated? If so, great, follow those links and analyze that source in the next step (and maybe that source's sources).

Many claims are based on an image, particularly on Social Media. But what if the image is manipulated, or not even representative of the original claim? Check context of the photo on these sites.

Verifying and tracing the origins of videos is more difficult than a still image. Use "Move 1" to analyze the video. For more ideas, see 10 Tips for Verifying Viral Social Media Videos.

Move 3: Investigate the Source (Read Laterally)

Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source (website or publication, author, etc.). Is it known for a particular bias? 

Move 4: Circle Back

If you get lost, hit dead ends, or find yourself going down an increasingly confusing rabbit hole, back up and start over with Step 1: knowing what you know now. You’re likely to take a more informed path with different search terms and better decisions.

Avoid Fake News: 4 Moves and a Habit

Caulfield's Four moves and a habit

How to Spot Fake News

eight tips for spotting fake news

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