By Debbie Wuthnow
Five Ways to Spot Fake "Facts"
As someone who seeks to be accurately informed, how can you protect yourself from believing and spreading false information? And how can you consistently spot the truth amidst an abundance of error?
At iVoterGuide, this is something we think about all the time. So I wanted to share with you five practical tools our team uses to spot fake “facts.” You can use these in evaluating the flood of information and misinformation flowing into your life every day:
- Recognize the difference between original sources vs. news or commentary. News reports, “fact checks”, editorials, and statements made by an individual are interpretations of an original source. For example, a certain law may be described as either “suppressing voting rights” or “protecting against voter fraud”. How are the words influencing your perspective?
- Check original sources, if possible. These are sources referenced by the news article, commentary, or individual. In the example above, reading the original source (the law itself) will tell you what the law actually accomplishes. And if you can’t conveniently get the original, just remember you are working off of someone’s interpretation.
- Check and compare multiple sources of information. Contrast an individual’s statement on social media to a news report on the same subject. Compare news sources with differing perspectives. Proverbs 18:17 says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”
- Ask probing questions, even from sources you personally trust. For example:
Be mindful of your emotions. Even if the story or statement confirms your beliefs, it deserves an accuracy check before sharing. In opinion pieces, fundraising emails, or social media posts, both the Left and the Right can succumb to exaggerating facts in order to spur action. In addition, our fast-paced culture breeds impulsive decisions. Intentionally avoiding a reaction based in anger or fear, however, can greatly protect your integrity.
- What makes this person/source an authority on the subject/issue?
- What are their sources? Are they quoting eyewitness accounts, original source documents, or simply another news agency?
- Does the evidence justify their statements? (This is very important when the author makes assumptions about a person’s motives or character.)
- Are they accountable to anyone for their accuracy? (For example, a news reporter must comply with the journalistic standards of their news agency, in contrast to an independent blogger. However, it’s worth asking if the news agency is itself a reliable watchdog these days.)
- Am I being presented with the whole picture/video/story? Has anything been edited out? Is a quote being taken out of context?
- When was this written? Is the information up to date? Is it still too early to confidently know the details?
With a personal commitment to integrity and accountability to truth, you can avoid spreading falsehood and, most rewarding, discover the truth. In our present culture, those who know and spread truth are like welcome beacons of light to other truth seekers—and lighthouses to keep unwary citizens from dangerous rocks of deception.
At iVoterGuide, our motto is, “Grounded in God, Rooted in Research.” God provides the basis for our commitment to careful, accurate research. In Exodus 23:1 He commands, “You shall not spread a false report.” As a provider of information on candidate positions, we understand that amplifying false reports can negatively impact an individual’s life and affect the laws governing our society. Therefore, our team is passionate about careful research and quality control for everything we publish in our guide.
We hope these tips are helpful as you personally seek to find, know, and share truth. Thank you for using iVoterGuide as one of your trusted resources and recommending us to your friends and family.