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How can I avoid misinformation or fake news?

As we see with the current coronavirus situation, as worry grows, people are sharing more information that is false or misinformed. It is very easy to share something that is seen on Facebook or received by Whatsapp. The problem is, when people do not take time to question the information source, unchecked and false information can spread quickly. This means people are receiving confusing and misleading information and this can be dangerous.

It is more and more important to check information sources, especially on the internet and using social media. Anyone online is able to publish and share information, even though it may be false. Even photographs and videos can be doctored, mislabelled or manipulated to tell a fake story. 

QUICK TIPS

  • Don’t get all your information on social media. Check trusted news websites or government websites.
  • Check who wrote the article. Can you trust what they posted and are they qualified to post this information?
  • Before sharing a post on Facebook or Whatsapp, make sure you’ve checked that it is trustworthy and factual information.

Social media and second-hand messages are not fool-proof ways of getting informed. It is best to get your information directly from an authority or expert on the issue, or from the reports from a reputable news outlet. 

What do you mean “an authority or expert on the issue”?

Look for organisations that are trusted leaders in the topic that you are looking for information on. In the way that you would go to a doctor or medical professional for medical care, for medical information, go to the Department of Health’s website. 

For example, if you have questions about a domestic worker contract, go to your agency, the Hong Kong Labour Department or the Philippine Overseas Labour Office. These are the experts and authorities on this topic.

Another example is if you are looking for travel information, the experts and authorities on this issue would be your travel agent, airline, the Hong Kong Airport, and the Department of Transportation. 

What do you mean “reports from a reputable news outlet”?

Professional journalists are trained to deliver reports that are factual and unbiased, meaning they do not favour one-sided opinions and try to provide a bigger picture. Reputable news agencies will work only with qualified journalists and fact-check their reports.  However, even when you are trying to get information from trusted news channels, it may be tricky. It is easy for a website to look like it is a news agency’s and some news channels provide more opinion pieces than others. 

Here are some things you can do to make sure you are reading and sharing reputable information.

  • Ask yourself: Who wrote it?

    • Well-researched information will have a qualified writer or organisation’s name attached to it. You can check the author’s credentials and qualifications. 
  • Ask yourself: What are they saying?

    • Is the author giving you an opinion or a balanced and factual view of the topic? Do they tell you where they found their information from? Are any quotes used being used correctly or are they out of context? Does the article match the headline that you clicked on or does it feel misleading – like “clickbait”?
  • Ask yourself: When was this written?

    • Older and out-dated articles can have incorrect information. Check the date it was published and if it was updated recently. 
  • Ask yourself: Where is this posted?

    • Make sure to check that the URL or Web address is the one you were intending to look at. Some websites may use copy-cat tactics to get people to read their site by accident. If you found your information on social media, remember that anyone can post anything on social media and it is easy to manipulate images and videos. If you found your information on a blog, remember to check their qualifications to write about the topic and that they are not fact-checked or aim to be unbiased like news agencies. 
  • Ask yourself: Why did they write this? 

    • Publishing content online is a great way to do many things. If the intent seems to be to inform, look for their sources and check the trustworthiness of their source. Other goals of publishing content could be: to sell a product, to provide entertainment or comedy, or to persuade you towards an opinion. Some companies may try to sell a product by writing about a story where the product was used. Some websites are entertainment websites that even make fun of the news. Other websites are written by an author who believes passionately about one thing and is trying to have others join them. 
  • Cross-check your information

    • Look for another trustworthy source that supports the information that you’ve found. You can do this by searching the question or topic on Google. 

 

Remember:

Keep yourself well-informed by making sure that the things you are reading online are helping you get to the right information. If you are not sure about something that you’ve read, cross-check it with other sources. Don’t share information that you haven’t checked first. 

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Last updated on April 9th, 2020
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