How do you know what information to trust? This is an important question right now, not just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and we need to follow reliable, science-based guidance to keep ourselves and our communities safe, but also because it has never been easier to create and share false or misleading information. Anyone with a smartphone can take photos and videos and share them instantly with people around the globe. Sometimes that information is trustworthy, sometimes it’s not.
People create and share false and misleading information for many reasons: to play a prank, to sell products or make money, to confuse voters, to make people angry or afraid, or to create chaos.
The first step in figuring out whether you can trust information is asking: Where did it come from? Who created it and why? This is true of information in any medium.
Activity: Pick up a copy of your local print newspaper (it could be a daily, a weekly or a monthly paper). Find the page that tells you who created the paper. Is there a list of names of the paper’s staff? Is there an address? A phone number? An email address? Where is the paper distributed, or circulated? How often is it published?
Now go to a trustworthy and reliable news website, like VTDigger.org or vpr.org. Can you find this same information online? Tell us what you found.
Explore more: If you or your parents have a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account, look through the news feed for a meme or an article posted by someone in their network. Try to look for the same information about the meme or the article. Who created it and why? Can you find out?
Read this article from online fact-checking website Snopes.com that explains how two Ukrainians created a Facebook page called “World USA” that was targeted at older Americans.