By Sue Tiffin
Last week, someone who works in media elsewhere in the province told me that as the truck convoy filled the streets, so too did angry, misinformed emails in their inbox.
The emails all stated the same thing, more or less – some of them verbatim to the ones before, many of them outraged – noting they had heard this person tell public in an on-air broadcast that the truck convoy was made up of “terrorists,” and that they should be ashamed of themselves.
This person who received an unexpected bombardment of emails, though, isn’t a part of on-air broadcasts in any capacity. So, they responded to each one, gently refuting that allegation, and offering to go over the broadcast that had run if need be. Most of the followup emails to that response were calmer, apologetic, and led to an answer: someone, in a group of about 65,000 people, in a completely different province, had posted what they thought they’d heard, included an email address, and asked others in the group to “blast” their inbox.
It was a huge waste of time and energy for everyone. In other cases, it can be dangerous such as when people are doxxed – their personal contact or home address shared online.
Whether misinformation – the unintentional spread of inaccurate information, or disinformation – the intentional spread of inaccurate information to manipulate others – it’s spreading as quickly as Omicron, and it’s exhausting.
While we’ve noted it before in this paper, it’s worth noting again, because we’re all capable of reading something, feeling emotional and sharing it before thinking critically about the source from which we received it.
Here’s what to remember about how to spot potentially fake news, from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions:
• “Consider the source: Is there an author? Check out their credentials on relevant issues.
• Read beyond: Headlines can be outrageous in an effort to get clicks. What’s the whole story?
• Supporting sources?: Click on links or check with official sources. Do they support the story?
• Do others agree?: Are any other sites reporting this? What sources are they citing?
• Is it a joke?: If it’s too outlandish, it might be satire. Research the source to be sure.
• Check your biases: Consider if your own beliefs or concerns could affect your judgement.
• Ask the experts: Ask a librarian, [Editor’s note: or a reputable journalist!] or consult a fact-checking site, or an official source like the WHO [or the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District health unit].
• Look before you share: Don’t share posts or stories that you haven’t checked out first.”
This type of misinformation and disinformation doesn’t just show up in our inbox or on our social media feeds but in traditional news media, in books and perhaps even around our family dinner table or in a conversation with our neighbour.
Let’s work together to remind ourselves to pause before sharing, think before reacting and take another look at the original source, or for a second reliable source before spreading something that’s more unhelpful than not.