How to avoid fake news and propaganda
We have learned more about misinformation and disinformation in the above sections. Most of our interviewees called Russia’s propaganda a huge challenge to media professionals in Kazakhstan, as it’s hard to determine it and flag it. But misinformation is no less challenging, as the majority of it is spread by ordinary people, who are the victims of disinformation. There are many efforts by journalists, nonprofit organizations, and government bodies to determine propaganda and misinformation in the world. I have analyzed them to share with you the most effective ways to avoid them.
Thanks to the Internet, it has become easier than ever to conduct research, find useful information on any conceivable topic, and, in general, develop a better perception of the world. However, it has also become easier to spread misinformation and lies. Intentionally or accidentally, many websites actively spread fabrications. Therefore, separating truth from fiction requires constant vigilance. Nowadays, propaganda is regarded as an ethical challenge to the world. Ukraine, a post-Soviet state which has been attacked by Russian propaganda since the annexation of Crimea, has developed fact-checking initiatives such as Infosprotyv (information resistance), Myrotvorets (peacekeeper), and StopFake, which are crowd-sourced journalism projects that counter fake information about events in Ukraine. Based on their experience, these initiatives offer simple methods of identifying Russia’s propaganda. According to them, five things need to be considered before relying on the information on any website. There are:
- Information is too good to be true
- Text with low quality
- Website does not specify or link the source(s)
- You found the very same information through untrusted resources, but not from trusted ones
- You cannot verify the information, as it was probably changed or original information was deleted
The easiest way to check information is to find the original source. Use quotes to track the source of information. Sometimes you can find that websites simply link to each other, creating cross-links. In other cases, the source exists, but it is unreliable. For example, a press release or a person who is not an expert. If you look for yourself studying primary sources, it is much harder to be manipulated by disinformation.
Misinformation is often spread from person to person, which means it is widely represented on social media. While search engines can certainly provide links to questionable pages, social media is still the largest vector of false information on the Internet. Links found on social networks should be approached with suspicion, especially if they are provided by someone who is not an expert in this area. However, even links from conventional search engines can be problematic.
StratCom Task Force, another initiative by the EU founded to expose Russian propaganda, gives three objectives to lower the influence of disinformation in the region: (1) Adapt media policies of the EU on freedom of the media, (2) support independent media projects, and (3) raise awareness of Russia’s propaganda campaign. The EU initiative countering Russian propaganda launched in September 2015, right after Russia used its new methods of propaganda in full display against Ukraine.