Former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared August 30 as the National Press Freedom Day last April under Republic Act 11699. Under this law, August 30 will be a working holiday commemorating Marcelo H. Del Pilar, the father of Philippine journalism.
The modern world has been a double-edged sword for journalists as it can be a source of information and misinformation. Nowadays, you can get the latest news with a touch of a screen. However, you can also be a victim of fake news and false information if you are not careful with your online content.
People who fall for fake news are usually older because they are slower to adjust to modern technology. According to a Social Weather Stations survey, last December 2021, 51% of their 1,440 respondents say that they find spotting fake news challenging. Almost 70% of the respondents say that the problem of fake news is grave.
Anyone can be a victim of fake news. The good news is that there are ways to verify the accuracy of any information the first time you see it. You don’t have to be a journalist or a fact-checker to know the legitimacy of information you see in different media sources. Here are some pointers so you won’t have to be a victim of fake news again.
How to verify information
Find unbiased sources of news
Journalists should be unbiased when telling the news. However, personal preferences and politics can alter the public’s perception because having a stand is as important as reporting based on facts. To verify information, you can read from sources not affiliated with right-wing and left-wing politics.
The best source of unbiased information is the Associate Press (AP). Both right-wing and left-wing journalists worldwide use AP as a source of information because their tone is entirely neutral. One of the standards of journalism in the world is the AP stylebook, which is used to this day and has remained as a nonprofit news cooperative since 1846.
Reuters is another news source that reports straightforward news. It is a news agency and not a media company, which means that it aims to collect information around the world and deliver it to newspapers, magazines, and other forms of media. The media company is unbiased to the point where it is quoted in parliamentary hearings in other countries.
Read the raw data
Organizations like Reuters and AP make information more “digestible” for the public. All news comes from facts interpreted from raw data or events, which these agencies simplify. If you want to confirm a piece of information, you can get the raw data from public offices, statistics, and other paperwork.
Today, we have Freedom of Information that allows any Filipino to obtain information about government transactions and operations. Government transactions are now considered public documents; you can get copies from local government offices. The same goes for legislation, contracts, and the like.
Reading raw data might be difficult, especially if you are not an expert in numbers or complex terminologies. The upside of this is that you have unfiltered information at your hands. You can formulate your opinion around it and analyze the data for yourself.
Use tools online to verify information
Misinformation is spreading like wildfire on the internet. Luckily, there are tools that you can use to combat misinformation. A reverse image search is one of the best ways of knowing a photo’s legitimacy. Sites like Yandex, TinEye, and Google Image Search allow you to see duplicate videos online.
It is easier to alter videos nowadays. That is why you need tools like InVID and Amnesty International YouTube DataViewer to detect if a video is changed or has been previously downloaded online. And if you need to know the validity of a website, Whois Tools will tell you who registered a web address and its physical address.
Remove biases to verify information
Everyone is biased, and it is impossible to be an objectively neutral person. However, you should develop a sense of openness when it comes to the information that is presented. People become victims of information once they get news from sources that align with their personal biases and opinions.
Cherry picking is a fallacy when an individual chooses a significant portion of the information that aligns with their beliefs and ignores the other parts of the data that contradict it. On the other hand, cognitive dissonance is the phenomenon when a person feels uncomfortable when receiving new information that contradicts their beliefs.
These two feelings can hinder someone’s ability to verify the information. The best way to fight these biases is to be open to criticism, fact-checking, and other perspectives. It would be best if you also considered reading all the sides of a story when searching for information, even the parts that contradict your beliefs.
Ask reliable people
In some cases, experts in their given field can give you the truth. For example, you can trust a licensed medical professional about COVID-19 vaccines than an unknown source that tells you to inject Ivermectin in your body. Experts have mastered their field and will provide accurate information about the given topic.
However, it would help if you balanced this out and did not fall for the “appeal to authority” fallacy. Yes, experts are professionals in their given field. However, some experts use their reputation to distort the truth from the public. Asking as many experts as possible is the best way to confirm information.
Why identifying false information is important
Identifying fake news is essential in today’s world anyone can fall through the algorithm of misinformation if they are not media literate. Unfortunately, the world of solely newspaper prints and television shows is over because there are other alternative forms of media, especially the internet.
The internet has made known the truth difficult. True, but it has also made reality more accessible because there are multiple sources of the information presented in front of you.
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