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PARK RAPIDS LWV: Know your news: misinformation and disinformation

This guide to knowing your news will provide tips on spotting and combating misinformation as well as minimizing information overload.

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Today, information is being sent and received at the speed of light. Consuming news has become increasingly overwhelming and tricky. Often people are unsure if the information they’re getting is 100 percent accurate or they become overwhelmed with the amount of information they are exposed to.

This guide to knowing your news will provide tips on spotting and combating misinformation as well as minimizing information overload.

Avoid false information

Many people are concerned about allegations of “fake news,” which can be described as the intentional or unintentional spread of misinformation through various forms of communication (news outlets, television, radio and social media).

Social media is designed to spread information more rapidly than traditional media. This characteristic can often be helpful, but also means the misinformation and disinformation can spread quickly via shared articles, tweets, posts and images.

Misinformation is any false information, regardless of whether or not it is intentionally created and spread.

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Disinformation is any false information that has been created or distributed with the intent of misleading or deceiving others. It is important to know the difference, as both can be harmful to your news consumption.

Factual vs. false

When reading an article online, consider the source.

If it is from a trustworthy, reputable or major news source, it is more likely the information is fact-based.

Be wary of information on social media that has no listed sources to back up the claims. “Breaking” or shocking news may contain misinformation if not corroborated by other major news sources.

Newspapers, libraries and nonpartisan organizations, like universities and some think tanks, can be good sources for double-checking information.

When reading an article in a newspaper, make sure the article is an objective report. Opinion pieces – like commentaries, letters to the editor and editorials – are typically written with a subjective perspective and based on the discretion of the writer. These are still good to read, but should not be mistaken for objective reports from journalists.

When watching TV, commentary shows on television are fine to watch but may require your own additional research. Commentary shows are also opinion pieces with a subjective perspective and based on the discretion of the show producers and presenters. Do not mistake them for objective reports from journalists.

It’s false…now what?

Once you have decided the information is false, do not share it. However, it is also important to not dismiss it either. Inform others, especially those who may have shared it with you.

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Be wary of images on social media

Misinformation and disinformation can come in various forms, even an image. Heavily-edited images on social media are usually a red flag for misinformation and disinformation, but the edits can sometimes be subtle. Often, misused or misleading images will have completely different sources or origins, like a false description or caption. As part of your research to determine whether an image is misleading or accurate, you can use a reverse image search.

In some web browsers, you can simply right-click on the image and select ‘Search Google for Image.’

You can also download the image or find its URL. Then go to images.google.com or www.tineye.com and upload the image or paste the image’s URL.

How do I make the news less overwhelming?

  • Get your news and information from at least three different sources.
  • At least two of these sources should be bona fide journalism, not commentary, opinion or talk shows.
  • At least two of these sources should be in written format. This allows you to consume information slower, review it and fact-check it. Video news media (like cable news) can throw lots at you fast. Fact-checking and sources are often difficult to track.
  • Local sources, such as MinnPost.com and MPR News, are available statewide. National news from the Associated Press, Reuters and other major outlets are available online.

To find out more details about these topics, videos on how to use the tools mentioned and links to several fact-checking websites, go to https://www.lwvmn.org/know-your-news .

League of Women Voters Park Rapids Area (LWVPRA) is a non-partisan organization. Its mission is to encourage informed and active participation in government through education and advocacy. All LWVPRA programs are free and open to the public. Direct any questions about LWVPRA activities, events or on how to join by emailing lwvparkrapids@lwvmn.org. Follow activities, events on lwvparkrapidsarea.blogspot.com.

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