Fighting misinformation in the age of the “digital war”

It has been said that the first casualty of any war – is the truth.

In the last 5 years the concept of deception from the “main stream media” has become a hot topic both online and in real time around coffee row and the water cooler.

Misinformation circulates about everything from the pandemic, to elections, and now the war in Ukraine. Social media is flooded with posts, videos, pictures and articles that make claims which are false, or structured to further a bias..

Russian forces have used social media in the past to further a bias and push political agendas. The most notable recent event – allegations of Russian interference in American elections.

Katrina German is the CEO of Ethical Digital a firm based in Saskatoon. She says that it is important to try and verify sources when reading stories posted to social media. “You have to be able to click back – and see if the original source of the information is credited, or if you can verify where the story is coming from. Has this been written by someone who has thoroughly researched the topic, as opposed to someone who may have just done a few google searches.”

German says there are key lines to look for in stories that may reveal if the story is biased. “Anytime a story speaks in terms of absolutes. Are they saying “They always do this”, or “This always happens” that is generally an indicator that someone is trying to convince you of something”.

One safe guard many rely on – the verified status on many platforms. The blue checkmark may not mean as much as we think. German says that just because someone has been verified as a real person – that doesn’t necessarily make them an authority to speak on the topic you may be looking for information on.

“Twitter verification is more to prove that a person is real, and less to prove that they are reputable. Yes they are real, but they still might not be qualified to speak about the things you are looking up and trying to get information on. The blue check mark says yes they are a a real person, but you still need to dive deeper and see if what is being shared is based in opinion, or based in fact.

Times shifting and technology improving has made misinformation campaigns even easier to put out. In the days since the conflict in Ukraine erupted – videos have surfaced depicting attacks that never happened, or moments that are misrepresented in the context of the war. “As technology gets more savvy it will be more difficult to distinguish things that have been doctored, or actual. This war will actually be an information war. Different countries are using social media and our ways of connecting with each other as a way of sowing fear and misinformation. As we move forward as a democracy it’s important for to understand the effects this will have on people engaging with one another.

How can you ensure you are receiving information that is credible and not getting drawn into misinformation cycles? German says it ‘s simple.

“You have to look at reputable stations and groups that you trust to give you news. Another thing to think about – is your emotional experience. It’s important to take time, and at times complete breaks from the news when it is affecting your mental health and attitudes for the day.”

Ethical Digital is a firm that creates content that is both informational and celebrational. They work with researchers to affect the trajectory of the internet. Driving diversity and helping to make the internet a better place and by extension creating a better society.

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