How can I spot misinformation?

Uncertainty and Misinformation

A: It’s not easy and takes practice. The Nerdy Girls have some tips to help:

💡 First, it may be helpful to share what we mean when we say misinformation. Misinformation is information that is false, inaccurate, or misleading based on the best evidence at the time. Under the umbrella of misinformation, you may have also heard of another term, disinformation, which is information that is spread to intentionally deceive people.

Disinformation efforts have bad intentions. Most of the time it is hard to tell on the surface, especially in social media, the origins of the information, so the distinction between misinformation and disinformation can be pretty fuzzy.

💡Some people may be more likely to come across misinformation, especially on social media. Due to social media algorithms, we are all more likely to see content that those in our social network are drawn to. So, if you know that you have friends online that have different views than you, who may be skeptical of vaccination or lockdowns, be prepared that you are more likely to see content that they see too. This is the nature of our online information ecosystem.

💡 All information that we come across should be read critically. There has been an overload of information throughout the pandemic. This information overload, something referred to in many reports as the infodemic, is something the Nerdy Girls are very aware of! However, there are a few characteristics of misinformation that may be able to tip you off that this content should be viewed with extra thought.

These include:

➡️The statements given use vague language. Sometimes misinformation is successful because it is not specific enough. The piece of information succeeds because it plants a seed of doubt.

➡️ The storyteller describes a person in their social network but without detail on their relationship

➡️ The content appeals to your emotions

➡️The facts that are cited seem almost too good or too clear to be true. Science is incremental. There are very few studies that prove something unequivocally.

➡️The visual picture has eye-catching colors or images intended to scare (think: needles, kids crying, harm happening)

➡️The audio uses scary music. Really any video that has been covered over with music has been edited. Edited content means that it may have been altered.

➡️The audio uses voiceover or mixes different speakers.

💡 It may be helpful to apply Dr. Donovan’s 3Ds: detect, document and debunk, something the Nerdy Girls have written about in the past.

*Detection* is the ability to identify that something just doesn’t jive with you, that it may be misinformation.

*Document *is the recognition that the information is intending to solicit a reaction, in particular an emotional reaction whether it be fear, sadness, or joy from the reader.

And finally, *Debunk* –do your best to not pass on this piece of misinformation.

Good luck to all our misinformation detectives! We salute you!

Those Nerdy Girls

U.S. Surgeon General general’s report: Confronting Health Misinformation

Links to prior posts:

“How do I fight fake news?”

“What can I do to stop health misinformation?”

Link to Original FB Post