I don’t know if you’ve checked your social feeds today, but there’s a lot to digest, and everyone seems to have an opinion about everything that they’re seeing. Scrolling these days can feel like whitewater rafting through a treacherous river of news, opinions and people claiming to be experts on everything from health to politics to the economy.

Unfortunately, the media ecosystem has been set up with incentives to drive fear, anger and disgust, and where there are incentives, there will be people who take advantage. That has led to what we see today, which is a tidal wave of information that presents itself as reputable, drowning us in content that divides, incites fear and creates anger. The saddest part is that most of what is causing that damage isn’t real – or at least it’s not coming from real sources.

As humans, we are programmed to trust experts, and that’s important. It’s the only way that we can collectively learn just about anything, and it’s how we’ve evolved as a species. We look for markers, or symbols of expertise, such as the number of people who respect that person, or the organizations that they’re endorsed by, to signal that we should trust that source.

The problem is that today, nearly all of those markers can be spoofed. Legitimate-sounding organizations can be created with little more than a domain and a logo. Followers who flock to alarmist accounts create a self-perpetuating cycle of faux-authority.

Meanwhile, the real experts, the people who are doing important work that is critical to our development, understanding, and progress get drowned out.

So rather than add to the noise, today I thought that I’d share some ways that we can wade through the mess and get to the good stuff. To filter through what we’re seeing on any topic to assess for ourselves whether the origin of that content is worth our time and attention because the first step towards productive conversation and positive debate is to have a common understanding of what exactly it is that we’re talking about.

First, let’s define the problem

Not all misleading information is created equally. There are three categories of content that we need to be watching out for – the difference comes down to the incentive of the publisher.

The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security shared the following definitions:

Now, what can we do about it? News Media Canada has put together a fantastic resource with a very direct name: spotfakenews.ca.

On their website they list four things that we can all be doing any time we encounter online content that may or may not be worthy of our trust – I’ve paraphrased that list for you here so that you can use it the next time you encounter something in your own news feed that raises your eyebrow:

Is this a credible source?

Check the source of the article, meaning the website, person, or organization who originally published it—and be skeptical.

Is this article coming from a credible, reputable source? Credibility is in the eye of the beholder, but typically the best sources will have a long track record, and respect among its peers.

Is the perspective biased?

Think critically and look for varying viewpoints on an issue.

Look for outlets that report from various perspectives to ensure the credibility of a piece. Snippets of a story taken out of context can distort it from reality. Is the article or video distorted or not telling the full story? Does it seem like it’s been created to incite an emotion? What are the source’s incentives to get your attention and earn your trust?

Always question if a source is hoping to inspire a desired outcome. And remember, just because you don’t agree with a particular viewpoint does not make it biased.

Are other sources reporting the same story?

If one story that looks too shocking to be true shows up on just one website, consider whether or not that story may be credible.

Look to see if multiple, legitimate sources—such as established media outlets from multiple perspectives —are reporting the same facts, and if they are, it’s more likely to be accurate.

Is the story timely?

Check the date the story was published.

Sometimes, stories try to take advantage of a current event and use old photos or shocking videos from similar incidents to drive up views and engagement.

In addition to those simple steps that we can all be taking, there are services that have sprung up to help us fact-check what we’re seeing online.

The following are a few helpful tools that you can use the next time you’re wondering whether the latest shocking story is real or whether it’s some form of misinformation:

FactCheck.org – a non-profit group that regularly reviews stories in US Politics, Science and viral Facebook content to assess its credibility and provide the correct info.

Snopes.com – fact check for online rumors and news stories. If the story that you’re seeing has gained just about any traction online, chances are Snopes has reviewed it. They’re recently introduced an AI FactBot that you can use to check any story that you come across.

FotoForensics This tool provides an analysis of any image you can find on the internet. Although FotoForensics doesn’t give you a clear answer of whether an image is real or fake, it can identify hidden pixels, error level analysis and metadata details.

Google Reverse Image Search This is the simplest method to verify images – just save the image that you’re looking at, then upload it to Google as an image search to see where else it’s appeared and where it originally was published.

InVID Verification Plugin InVID is a plugin available on Chrome and Firefox. Upload an image or video to the system and it will show you its original location, date of creation, thumbnails and keyframes. It allows you to reverse search on Google and Twitter, magnify images without losing clarity and analyze metadata with an Image Verification Assistant.

Serelay Users can upload images to this free app and it will perform a series of tests to conclude whether or not the image is doctored. It also shows which part of the image has been modified. Serelay does not keep an inventory of photos in an attempt to protect users’ privacy. But it does store a digital fingerprint of each image that can detect even a single-pixel edit.

Now, I don’t suggest that you become so cynical that you use these tools on every piece of content that you encounter, but it’s important to consider what we’re using to form our view of the world.

The massive volume of content that we consume every day means that our brains can’t possibly associate every new idea with its original source, so it’s on us to make sure that the information that we’re allowing into our brains is as accurate and objective as possible.

As business leaders, marketers and content creators, our jobs are to collect information, form opinions, and come up with original ideas, and we can only do that if the information that is serving us is legitimate.

But even more importantly, we’re all humans who never in the history of the world had to deal with the news of every tragedy, every scandal and every potential threat around the globe all coming at us at the same time.

So, take care of yourself out there. It’s easy to get caught in loops of doom-scrolling and rage-baiting. Sometimes the best antidote to misinformation is to simply put our devices down and go for a walk.

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