Media literacy helps consumers distinguish fact from fiction – InsideSources
Do you remember that old Eagles song about you can’t hide your lying eyes? If a songwriter wrote this today, in the middle of the information war that is raging on the internet, then these eyes that lie, maybe not eyes at all.
They can be part of a synthetically produced video that a nation or individual created using modern technologies to change reality. All with the intention of sowing distrust.
Deepfakes, as they are called, are the latest spread of disinformation on the internet. And they were preceded by the explosion of fabricated stories that organizations like Russia’s Internet Research Agency are happy to spread in order to undermine a reliable flow of information in democracies like ours.
As with these “fake news” stories, the intent of the altered videos is to make us doubt the information we are receiving. These doubts, in turn, undermine the confidence required for the stability of a democracy.
But what should information consumers do? How are we supposed to find out if what we see or read is true, especially in a world where information travels so quickly and our time is so short?
Fortunately, some tips can guide us.
They are part of the ‘media literacy’ literature that is becoming a useful tool and schools across the country are ramping up.
The first piece of advice, as former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a recent interview with Democracy Talks, is to ask yourself some questions if you are unsure of where the information you just got on the internet or on social media came from.
For example, does the website indicate a conflict of interest? How old is the site Where did the source get the information from? How is the information verified? Do they allow links to sources? If the answers are no, consider the information tainted.
Finding the answers can take a while, but not too long. You can do a quick side-to-side search to see if a viewed news site is verifying the information.
We should also look out for information that triggers a strong emotional response. Think twice about when an unfamiliar source of information evokes strong emotions. Chances are they are trying to tie you up.
If you are unsure about an image, do a reverse image source. As SMU media literacy expert Megan Heuer explains, you can use Google Images to check if photos have been used elsewhere, an indication that the story may be hyped.
And a simple tip to follow is to read a variety of sources. Have other websites or newspapers written about the same phenomenon? And read publications that do not agree with your views. These are ways to avoid living in an echo chamber.
Tools are also being developed to help you determine the trustworthiness of the information.
Glenn Gaffney, former director of science and technology at the CIA, reports that companies are emerging new ways to authenticate videos and examine images at the point of origin. This type of tool could help us avoid misleading information.
Organizations like NewsGuard also use objective criteria to mark the trustworthiness of a news site. Standards include whether the organization clearly identifies advertising, regularly corrects and clears errors, and discloses ownership and funding. NewsGuard and his team of journalists then use a color code to assess the reliability of the information.
Offers like this one can be a leaflet while we are evaluating a report. We don’t have to accept all of their reviews. But at least this could help us to recognize whether we should be skeptical of information or even consider it to be misinformation.
Of course, fact checking organizations like PolitiFact are emerging as a useful source of data on certain allegations or facts. They often operate outside of a traditional news organization and try to determine the veracity of a post or article.
Fact-checking has evolved as an industry in such a way that, according to a study by Duke University, there are now almost 200 organizations. Companies such as Google and Facebook also conclude contracts with some of them to determine the legitimacy of information.
Fortunately, media literacy courses are also spreading. Media Literacy Now reports that they exist in 14 states and offer courses for students. One such example is the News Literacy Project, which works with news organizations to teach middle and high school students how to recognize the truth of a story.
The reliability of the flow of information has emerged as one of the greatest challenges facing democracies, including our own. The answer implies that as individuals we are foot soldiers in the struggle for the truth. We play a big part in knowing if these eyes are not just lying but real.