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How to Survive in the Fake News Era

I feel lucky to be living in today’s world where we are so connected with the people via technology, most information we receive is from our digital platforms which are on our fingertips.

A couple of clicks and you can contact anyone anywhere in the world.

But even with the greatest of things comes some challenges and one of the biggest challenges in today’s digital world is detecting what is actually truth and what is false.

The sources of information have just massively increased in the last few years, more sources mean more people informing us about the news, this becomes trickier when some of these people wrap this information with some tweaks or sometimes totally false to make it revolve around their own agenda.

The harm it can cause is invincible, it can shape the electoral results according to researchers fake news had a substantial impact on US 2016 elections, with elections in Pakistan is just around the corner it’s important that people understand the fake news impact.

For the last two years, Facebook has put some serious efforts to fight against the disinformation, but recently Facebook defends false news, hoax and propaganda by calling it as freedom of speech, which is a bit worrying.

Facebook’s inability to distinguish Infowars (which says Sandy Hook is a hoax) from normal political dialogue should concern us all.

To keep things simple here are some tips to help you understand so you can play your part as a responsible citizen to minimise the spread of disinformation.

Don’t just believe everything immediately

When you see a piece of news or information, don’t just believe it immediately.

Do some initial checks for verifying the news which is the third step in this article. Instead of going into a dilemma for every information you receive, act smartly only look to verify information that you care about.

One thing that I have learned in this digital age is to ignore things that aren’t important otherwise, your brain will be bombarded with items that aren’t of your interest.

What is your Source of Information?

Always check what is the source of information, people habits have changed, now most people get the news from their social media account, whether its Twitter, Facebook or WhatsApp.

A couple of years ago, my main source of information was through my social media accounts, but soon I realised the amount of nonsense I am getting from these platforms which is dangerous.

So, I switched back to my older sources of information, which is mainly through reputed newspapers, just to clarify I don’t just rely on one single source of information, now I have made a habit of checking headlines of 3-4 top Pakistani news providers.

Verify the News

Best way to verify is from multiple sources and ensure those sources are authentic when I say authentic I mean a reputable newspaper, mainstream media or if it’s shared from any verified Facebook/Twitter account.

A very common example is when people share screenshots from public figures Twitter accounts, but when you go to their verified accounts you never find that tweet, it takes less than a minute to verify, you immediately realise that someone has made up the tweet for their own gain.

Tweaking a tweet or Facebook post is a very simple job, people with some IT skills can tell you how easily you can change anyone’s post content within your browser and screenshot it and share it with the world.

Don’t just share it!

You play the key role in spreading the fake news when you share the information without verifying it, my social media is sometimes full of nonsense and the reason is not people who are generating these fake news, it’s the people who are sharing it irresponsibly.

Innovation in technology keeps me excited but it also scares me at the same time on what shape it will give to our future, the amount of damage caused by fake news might get worst in the coming days, but as an optimist, I do have a firm belief that this era will get over perhaps technologies like blockchain & Artificial intelligence might play a key role in fighting the fake news, but it will take time to get there until then play your part and stop spreading the disinformation.

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