How to Overcome Misinformation
Bad information has become rampant online. With little policing, there’s no limit to what people can put out there and if it catches on and goes viral, it soon becomes the standard. This type of misinformation can rapidly spiral out of control and thanks to the strength of the internet, it isn’t easy to get past it.
While lies and poorly checked information have always been an issue, it was never as widespread as it is today. Back in the 1800s, word of mouth was the usual way to spread misinformation and even newspapers were fairly local. This meant that a rumor could spread a certain amount but rarely got to the point of affecting more than a handful of people.
Once widespread media was available, it was possible for the information to spread faster and more people saw it at the same time. This led to more people talking and the spread of misinformation continued. However, it wasn’t until the internet that these lies or scams became exceedingly easy to create and scatter across the globe. Today, we have only to sign into a social media account to find ourselves bombarded with memes, tips, and photos with fun and interesting or poignant stories. It’s a never-ending stream of information and not all of it is good or factual.
What Is Bad Information?
Other names for misinformation include fake news, scams, and false information. You may have seen them as rumors, as well. Whatever you call it, misinformation is generally made up by someone for a specific purpose.
Once something has been picked up and shared, something that social media makes extremely easy, it quickly starts to become “reality.” Just think back to the big blue versus gold dress debate a few years ago. Remember how fast that became a thing?
A quick look at some of Facebook’s fake election stories immediately shows how many people can see anything you post as it goes viral. For example, the headline, “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement” which was published by Ending the Fed, saw nearly a million people engage with the information.
How Bad Information Affects You
Fake news has become so prevalent now that many people have to stop when they see a headline and then research whether it’s true. Even with actual sources available, some will insist that the misinformation is indeed true. It’s often not until much later, when the damage is done, that you’ll see how badly it all affected you and those around you.
How can misinformation be harmful when it’s only information? Well, there are quite a few ways, including:
・It’s bad for your health.
There are multiple “cures” for an assortment of diseases going around on the internet at any given moment. Some of them are harmless. Some are downright dangerous. People often spread these rumors to make money by selling something, or simply to cause problems.
・It encourages racism/sexism, etc.
Memes that make you fear a certain race, nationality, or any large group of people can be very destructive. More than one person has used social media posts as a reason for their racism. A good example of this is saying that immigrants are stealing jobs, which foments animosity toward foreigners.
・It has financial consequences.
Many people spend money because of fake claims that something will help them. However, without doing your due diligence, you can’t know just how true something is, and it’s not uncommon to see people posting about miracle cures or ways to make a million dollars. While they may appear obvious to some, not everyone can see through the scams easily.
・It promotes bullying and suicide.
You’ve likely seen stories about teens committing suicide because they were bullied online and at school. It isn’t just kids who are affected. Many adults deal with severe mental health issues and have to also manage bullying online. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to write lies about someone and post them on social media for all to see.
While bad info in general is a problem, it can also be a huge issue for your business. It’s important that you stay on top of any potential fake news about your company so you can counteract it rapidly if needed.
If someone does publish a bad review or some lies about your business, it’s often easy to get these taken down, since it counts as slander. It is certainly helpful if you can prove it’s not true, however, and you’ll find that putting out more factual and useful information on your company is often the most effective manner of combating whatever rumors are being started about you.
How to Combat Bad Information
When it comes down to it, you can’t believe a lot of what you see online, or even offline in some cases. So how can you be sure you’re spreading the truth when you share a link?
First, use common sense. If the information is coming from an obviously non-professional site, be wary. Look at reputable websites to find the right information.
Second, use fact checkers. There are many of them throughout the internet, including the ever famous Snopes.com. These will often pick up common memes and false information and tag it, adding an explanation and links to the truth. You can use these to ensure that you never pass on anything fake.
Finally, don’t pass something or publish it just because it seems cool. And if you do decide to do this, it’s usually a good idea to mention that you haven’t checked the sources. This lets people know to do their own research and not blindly believe what you’ve shared.
Bad information is rampant and while a disinformation algorithm is in the words for most search engines, it doesn’t catch everything. You need to do your own checks and be responsible for what kind of information you post.