Being source critical means evaluating the information you find. Firstly, this means understanding that some sources have greater credibility than others and, secondly, being aware that the originator of the information has an objective. This text has an objective too: to raise awareness about source criticism.
Strong emotions hamper source criticism
It is well understood that strong emotions make it difficult for us to think critically and rationally. By conjuring up fear-mongering scenarios and using emotional images, those who create fake news take advantage of this human trait.
To expose fake news, we need to probe the originator’s intentions. Merely trying to assess veracity is not sufficient. Those who produce fake news do not do so with the intent of finding out what really happened. Fake news has other agendas, such as attracting users to an advertiser, promoting a certain political line or reducing a population’s confidence in society.
Spread reliable information
Fake news might contain elements of truth. It may, for example, be based on an event that really took place but omit certain crucial facts or give an explanation of the event which is false.
Genuine news may contain inaccuracies. For instance, statistics may be misinterpreted or an interviewee may be incorrectly quoted. Nevertheless, the purpose of the news is to inform you about what really happened as any inaccuracies are unintentional.
In general, we trust our friends. Sharing information that is not true on social media not only spreads falsehoods further, it also gives the information weight by having been communicated by a friend.
- Who is behind the information? Can you identify the original source?
- Who will benefit by you spreading the information?
- How old is the information?
- Where did you find the information? Does it come from a reliable source?
- Bear in mind that your friends trust you. Take care not to help deceive them.
- Check whether you can find the information in other sources. Information from only one source must be treated with great caution.
- Search for information that contradicts your current opinion. In this way you avoid only looking for information that reinforces your current point of view.