Disinformation: A Growing Problem that needs a Critical Thinking Solution

How many times have you scrolled through Twitter or Facebook and reacted to a news story, only to find out it was either false or happened two years ago?

With the explosion of the Internet and news channels via social media it’s easier than ever to do so. Researchers from Oxford University, have released a report today (26/09/2019) in which they identified that ‘At Least 70 Countries Have Had Disinformation Campaigns’ – campaigns which seek to spread disinformation, discredit others, or affect views. Computational propaganda has become a big issue which platform such as Facebook are trying to tackle.

Most people have a tendency to seek sources of information (TV shows, newspapers or commentators) that support their viewpoint, but with the growth of the internet and sources of news, it has never been easier to do this. It is hard to find sources of news that are totally without bias, but to label any facts or views that disagree with your own as fake news without objectively evaluating them is contrary to critical thinking, which is becoming more important than ever. 

How to apply critical thinking

Here are some useful steps to apply to sources of news and information from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) to assist people in recognising fake news. Its main points are:

  1. Consider the source (to understand its mission and purpose)
  2. Read beyond the headline (to understand the whole story)
  3. Check the authors (to see if they are real and credible)
  4. Assess the supporting sources (to ensure they support the claims)
  5. Check the date of publication (to see if the story is relevant and up to date)
  6. Ask if it is a joke (to determine if it is meant to be satire)
  7. Review your own biases (to see if they are affecting your judgment)
  8. Ask experts (to get confirmation from independent people with knowledge

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