Like a lot of other people, I get much of my news from Facebook and Twitter. Sure, those aren’t the best sources, but it is today’s reality.
If as I do, you believe that truth and accuracy are important, the ability to separate real information from satire or propaganda is a critical skill — especially in an election year. It’s also important that we discourage “information” that’s simply designed to acquire website “clicks.”
Fifty years ago, it was much easier to tell the difference. If Walter Cronkite said it, it was most likely true; if you read it in Mad Magazine, it was satire (with possibly an element of truth). If it was something you read in a tabloid — well, who knew.
Today, truth in the “news” is far more elusive — even more so on social networks where anything goes and “facts” are almost never checked. In the interest of a more valuable Internet, here are our seven clues that will help you recognize and share actual news — versus being a click-bait enabler, spreading something that comes out the back end of a bull.
You really like it; or it really makes you angry
If you’re supporting Hilary Clinton, you’ll probably read, enjoy, and share any reasonably believable article attacking Donald Trump. And if you’re a Trump supporter, you’re likely to have the same response to a story about Clinton.
We tend to focus on articles that support our existing opinions — and prejudices. The people who write specious political articles know that; in most cases, they’re either churning out lies that might help their candidate or they’re simply not interested in accuracy. And in many other cases they’re simply laying out click bait.
Political articles are the most obvious source of misinformation this year, but it pays to be skeptical of other topics as well. Stories about wonderful new technology advances — cures for cancer, or a battery that charges in seconds — will, for example, probably catch the attention of many Windows Secrets readers. There’s often a kernel of truth in these articles, but it’s likely to be a very small kernel. Batteries, for instance, are getting better, but the changes continue to be incremental.