Podcasts, for me, are a great way to learn. One of my favorites is called Philosophize This, hosted by Steven West. In his podcast, West tells us the story of thinkers who have tried to make sense out of this crazy world. In a recent episode, he tells us of Karl Popper and his book, The Open Society and Its Enemies. Popper and other contemporary thinkers in the 1930s wanted to make people aware of how easy it is to fall under the spell of stories told by totalitarian and fascist regimes.
At about the same time I was listening to this episode, I received an article from MIT Review titled, “How to Avoid Sharing Bad Information.” It touched on digital literary expert, Mike Caulfield’s, method for evaluating online information, which he calls SIFT. It stands for:
- Investigate the source,
- Find better coverage, and
- Trace claims, quotes, and media to the original context.
The author of the article, Abby Ohlheiser, further says that if you “make a mess, clean up after yourself.” In other words, if you discover that you have shared misleading or false information, do your best to correct it. In this age of social media, misinformation is amplified.
With the situation in Ukraine, it’s important for all of us to stay informed but also be cautious about what sources we use for our information. A fantastic quote, often attributed to former Senator Hiram Johnson, says, “The first casualty when war comes is truth.” Disinformation is only one weapon that is used in situations like this. We’ve learned from more recent events that it’s easy to misinform people using social media channels. Once that information has been posted, it becomes amplified by the number of people with whom it is shared. My request is that we all be cautious about the news that we absorb and how we pass that on to others.
What sources do you trust to maintain information integrity? Do you have a fact-checking process you use?