By the end of this module, the student will be able to…
What separates journalism from other forms of communication such as entertainment, propaganda, advertising, or fiction is its ‘discipline of verification‘. To verify means to “get it right” and this is the essence of doing journalism: to find and present “the facts” and to arrive at the truth based on the best obtainable information.
There is no perfect formula, but every journalist uses certain methods to assess and test information to “get it right”. This involves working with as much data, asking various sides for comments, and disclosing as much as possible about their sources.
The most common misunderstanding about journalists is that they are supposed to be objective or free of bias. This is not possible since journalism is a profession that involves making a lot of decisions in search for the truth. Instead, what must remain objective are their methods. What every good journalist strives for is to maintain a consistent method of verification, a transparent approach to evidence. In doing so, their personal biases would not undermine the accuracy of their work. The method is objective, not the journalist.
While not everyone can and wants to become an actual journalist, everyone will benefit from learning basic skills of verification both online and offline. This is very true today especially with just how much user-generated content (UGC) there is. Now, anyone can upload anything and describe it in any way they want.
So, on to the third step in IWAS FAKE. Like every good journalist, make sure that you check the source and context of every piece of information you encounter: [A]lamin ang Source at Konteksto ng Impormasyon.
Here are three key questions and practical tips on how to verify UGC and any piece of information you come across online:
1. Who’s behind the information?
Recall the lesson on the 7 Types of Mis-/Disinformation (Module 2, Lesson 2.2). One of the types in the list is called Imposter Content, which is basically false and misleading content circulated by imposter accounts. To filter imposter content, you must always verify people’s identity — if they are who they say they are online. The most commonly faked accounts are those of journalists, news organizations, politicians, and celebrities.
Aside from imposter accounts, you should also be wary of internet trolls and bots. These are social media profiles that make rude and confrontational comments online with the goal of provoking strong emotional responses. Often, these accounts are fake and are produced in thousands to millions inside so-called ‘troll farms’. It is becoming more and more difficult to detect trolls as their profiles are created to be more unique and sophisticated. But one strategy that remains effective is to locate the original uploader of a content and evaluate whether a piece of false content is spread in a coordinated manner through trolls (i.e. Are the posts copy-pasted, or do they follow a certain script?)
2. Is the content authentic?
It is no secret anymore how easy it is to make a fake photo, video, tweet, or document. And yet, people are still so quick to fall for anything that captures their attention. Manipulated content (genuine information or imagery that is edited to deceive) and fabricated content (new content that is 100% false and designed to deceive and do harm) about coronavirus are uploaded in hundreds or even thousands online every day.
One important skill you must learn in testing the authenticity of an online content is using Reverse Image Search through Tineye. This technique allows you to check if an image is being recycled to support a new claim or event. By checking one or more image databases (with billions of images), you can track where an image has appeared elsewhere in the internet. Take note: If a reverse image search does not show you results, it does not automatically prove that the image is original; you still need to do additional checks.
3. What do other sources say?
Lateral reading is the process of finding multiple sources to either confirm or disprove a piece of information. When online, you do this by opening a new tab and searching for keywords to find out. This is opposed to ‘vertical reading’ which means staying on a webpage to look for information and evidence. When Googling, remember, the top result is not always the best and most credible result. Take the time to scan different results and open multiple tabs.
FOR THE NEXT LESSON, you will learn the steps you can do once you have verified a post to be false or misleading — the fourth and last step: [S]ALAIN BAGO I-SHARE AT [S]ITAHIN ANG MGA NAGKAKALAT NG MALI.
Verifying information can be a long and difficult process. It is not a simple yes/no action. It is not typical to get clear answers after simply running through three (3) quick checks. This should make you realize just how difficult and imperfect the job of a journalist is. However, you should always strive, like any good journalist, to only give out information that is verified and to catch information that is not. This is the last of the four steps of IWAS FAKE: [S]ALAIN BAGO I-SHARE AT [S]ITAHIN ANG MGA NAGKAKALAT NG MALI.
Facebook has made it easy for everyone to report content and content creators that we have verified to be deceiving and doing harm. Once reported, they are evaluated by Facebook against their Community Standards. In the last couple of years, Facebook has taken down hundreds of pages in the Philippines that they found to be performing “coordinated inauthentic behavior“.
It only takes these four easy steps to report content deemed problematic on Facebook:
Aside from reporting content, it is also very easy to unfollow or block accounts on Facebook. This helps you maintain a safer space on the platform. But what if it’s not trolls or strangers who spread disinformation on your feed but a friend or a relative of yours? How should you talk to them?
It may be tempting to just hit the block or unfollow button. However, in this case, ignoring the spread of false information from people you personally know is not the best idea. You need to try to talk to them while not making them feel bad or ashamed. The key is empathic conversation.
Empathy is shown through the language you use. Show concern and make it clear that you are on the same side. Here are some conversation templates you can try:
One final tip we have for you is to participate in existing fact-checking efforts. Several media organizations and civil society groups accept reports on disinformation and offer advanced training on how to verify online content. It will be a huge help to journalists when the general public does their part in monitoring the infodemic, instead of contributing to the information pollution. You can also start your own fact-checking communities within your school, neighborhood, organization, or family.
Combatting the infodemic should not end with just protecting ourselves. We must realize that what makes disinformation a global problem is the fact that we all have important roles to play in it. Remember, the closest thing we can get to a vaccine for disinformation is increasing the public’s immunity against it.
THAT ENDS MODULE D. Are you ready to test your knowledge and practice your skills? Ask your teacher or us for the Module D worksheets.
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THIS IS THE END OF THE COURSE. We hope you learned a lot in this journey. The important part, however, is practicing what you have learned. Let’s defeat the coronavirus and the infodemic. Together, let’s IWAS FAKE!
Flash Cards Version
#IWASFAKE Playlist 6: Deepfakes
#IWASFAKE Playlist 7: Fact-checking
“Fake news and the Infodemic
Misinformation & Disinformation
Practicing Healthy Skepticism
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