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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Guarding against inaccurate information

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James Pak

By James Pak
The author is head counselor of LA Career Coaching.

The unique challenge in our current information age is not the lack of information but rather the abundance of inaccurate information that is either provided without an intent to deceive (misinformation) or with an intent to deceive (disinformation).

When searching the web, one can easily find information that confirms personal views, whether true or false. With the advancement of technology enabling the creation of deepfake videos and media, distinguishing truth will become even more challenging.

Whether it influences political elections, impacts public health measures, or fosters social division, the infiltration and influence of misinformation and disinformation on our understanding of the world are critical issues that we must all guard against.

Here are some ways to guard against misinformation and disinformation:

1. Check the Source: Before believing or sharing information, consider the source. Is it reputable? Does it have a history of accuracy? Reliable sources typically have processes in place for fact-checking and editorial oversight. Be cautious of information from unknown or unverified sources, particularly those that lack evidence to support their claims.

2. Cross-Verify Information: Even if the source seems credible, it’s always a good practice to cross-verify the information. Look for multiple trustworthy sources reporting on the same information. If only one source is reporting it, or if different sources are reporting conflicting information, that could indicate the information may not be accurate.

3. Understand the Difference Between News and Opinion: Many reputable news sources also publish opinion pieces, which are not held to the same standards of factual accuracy as news articles. Recognize when you’re reading an opinion piece and treat the information in it with appropriate skepticism.

4. Be Skeptical of Viral Information: Information that becomes widely shared or goes “viral” on social media isn’t necessarily true. In fact, false information often spreads faster and further than true information because it can be designed to provoke strong emotional reactions.

On May 22, 2023, a tweeted AI-generated fake image suggesting a large explosion at the Pentagon led to momentary confusion, causing a reported minor drop in the stock market. [Screen capture]
5. Think Critically: Critical thinking is the best defense against misinformation. Ask questions about the information you’re seeing. Who benefits from this information? Is it plausible? Is the evidence credible and convincing?

6. Increase Media Literacy: Understanding how media works can help guard against misinformation. This includes understanding the difference between news and propaganda, recognizing bias, and being aware of how personal beliefs and biases can affect one’s interpretation of information.

7. Be Mindful of Confirmation Bias: This is the tendency to believe and share information that confirms existing beliefs while disregarding information that doesn’t. Be open to information that challenges your beliefs and be skeptical of information that seems too perfectly aligned with them.

By applying these strategies, we will be better equipped to guard against misinformation and disinformation, making more informed decisions. It is a shared responsibility to maintain the integrity of our information landscape.