Friday, November 25, 2016

Real vs. Fake news. How I tell the difference on Social Media.

Responding to a query I received this morning about how to tell real news from fake news on the internet after posting yesterday about a lie told by Ann Coulter, here is how I do it.

I assume everything I read as "news" on Social Media that isn't a story about an actor/actress or musician is FAKE (interestingly enough, the social media tends to be pretty good about pop stars and people who act). That said, if it's something that interests me, I go to the web and independently source it. I google a question, just like you would on and look for what comes up. I look at the sources. For example:

By FOX New's own admission 85% of what it does is opinion - so I disregard those. I look for news from Canada and other countries where it's actually a crime to tell a lie and call yourself news (it's the reason there is no Fox News in Canada). News sites from other countries have a fairly large presence in the US, don't be afraid to read them. I look for sites that have won awards for journalism like Digby or Crooks and Liars. And then I do it again. I need to see the sources from at least two independent resources, which is harder than you might think given how incestuous industry is. (For example, did you know that Blue Moon Ale is actually Coors?) I look to see who owns the news source - it's why I stopped believing anything that comes from the Wall Street Journal.

There are sites I read for editorializing - for example Daily Kos, which has a decidedly Liberal bent (and to which I contribute from time to time). But I look at it with the same skepticism as I do Facebook. Always double-check. Triple check. If someone offers up a number as a FACT in places where almost everything is social media based, I try to verify the fact. Then I try to disprove it. In the case of Coulter's very obvious lie I went immediately to disprove, simply because experience has taught me that she almost always lies. The point is that there is almost never a single side to a story. That there is always a perspective in a news story. Try to find another one. Assume that when you read news on a social media site that it's being told to you because it want's to promote a specific bias. Look for the other side of that.

There is a simple reason I do this: the news media doesn't do it any more. They used to but now they don't have time - the world moves too damned fast for facts. Facts are slow and take time and care to reveal properly. It's EASIER to just say "Terrorist attach!" than it is to say "We don't yet know what's happening but we've sent people to find out so please be patient and stay here on this channel - stop looking for a Kardashian and wait please! This is important!"

Maybe we should have celebrities time their tweets to appear after the truth gets reported in a news story. "Once we have real answers we will have an unpublished tweet from Kim Kardashian showing us a new picture of her tits! Stay tuned!"

But let's go back to the top of my thesis here. I assume that anything trying to pass itself off as news on Social Media is false.That it is gossip at best and I despise gossip. If you START there it might make you more skeptical as a person, but it also might make you better informed because you seek out the truth itself.

Remember a couple of years ago that a survey was done and it found that the most informed people about news were the people who watched The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and that the worst informed were those who watched Fox? Hold yourself to a similar standard, and see what happens.