Today, we have more access to information than ever before. We no longer have to visit a library to find new information – we have ready access to information on our home computers and the phones in our pockets.
That said, we also have more opportunities to put information out onto the internet for people to read – which means that some of the information we’re reading and sharing with others will be inaccurate. How do you know which information is accurate and which information isn’t?
In this blog, we’ll talk about how to filter your knowledge and ensure it’s accurate before you share it with others to prevent spreading misinformation.
1. If Something Sounds Off, It Probably Is
The inspiration for this post came from a conversation with a colleague of mine about the accuracy of a video circulating on the internet. This video talked about the top ideas in the world. It discussed several different laws (starting with Murphy’s law), but from the start, it seemed to summarize Murphy’s law differently than how most people hear it.
As you read new information on the internet, keep an eye out for these types of “red flag” moments. They will help keep you alert and prevent you from spreading bad info. If you’re not sure about the accuracy of something you’ve read, move on to the next step.
2. Google it to Find it Somewhere Else
Although Google isn’t a foolproof system, it is a good starting point. By Googling your question by asking, “Is ___ true?” or “What is ___?”, you can gain a better understanding of what the truth is. Using the above example, you’d only need to ask, “What is Murphy’s law?” to find out whether you’re on the right track about the video.
Google can also help with fact-checking. If a fact or statistic is stated within an article but doesn’t provide a link/resource for you to look it up, Google it. Sometimes there is no fact there whatsoever – and other times, you’ll find that the same study has been cited across multiple sources. A bit more on how to handle that is below.
3. Hunt Down the Original Source
When facts or statistics are used in an article, there should always be some kind of link or resource page alongside it. If you can’t find the link for the statistic, check some of the other links within the article (sometimes writers will link only once but use multiple statistics from their source). If you can’t find a link anywhere, turn to Google to help you narrow down your search.
Here are some of the possible outcomes you may find if you Google a fact/statistic:
- All articles are pointing to the same source which you don’t have access to. Sometimes data is hidden behind a paywall or has been removed from the internet, so you can’t tell whether the data is true or false.
- The source is reputable and accurately represented. It may take a couple of tries (clicking cited sources) before you can get to the original source of the information. Once you find it, though, you can check it alongside the info you found and see if the information is accurate.
- The source is reputable but misrepresented. Sometimes, you will find that the article you looked at has different information than the original source. This could be for several reasons, but some of the common reasons are ignorance and bias. Sometimes a person will read an in-depth, technical study and not be sure how to interpret the information. Rather than err on the side of caution, they interpret it to the best of their ability and may fall short of providing accurate info. An alternative explanation is that the person has trouble understanding the study but is biased and reads that bias into the study itself, saying that the study proves their point of view despite the fact that it doesn’t.
The only time you should pass the information along is if the source is reputable and accurately represented. In the other cases, it would be better for you to find similar information elsewhere or forgo spreading the information at all.
4. What To Do with Mixed Information
Sometimes you’ll find that the information you come across is a mix of good and bad information. In this case, it’s best to use the (original) source with good, accurate information rather than using the first source you came across.
If you must use mixed information, it can be very helpful to talk about the inaccuracies you found through your research. You can also encourage others to do their own research to verify your information. Taking an open-handed approach to sharing knowledge can go a long way in building the trust of your audience.
Does It Matter How You Spread Knowledge?
In our last blog post, we talked about the importance of authenticity. Being willing to go the extra mile to check the accuracy of the information you share is another way you can prove that you’re the real deal. You don’t just blindly listen to information and re-circulate it – you do the research yourself and make a concerted effort to provide good information to people who come into contact with you and your business.
Honesty is one of the best ways to uphold the integrity of your brand, and here at Matcha Design, we take it very seriously. We urge you to do the same.