Importance of Fact Checking the News in the Times of Covid-19
Speaker: Mr. Sagar Kaul, CEO, Metafact
Facilitator: Vrinda Aggarwal, Journalist
Compiled by: Suzanne Khan
Date: 11th May 2020
Being an expert in this area, CEO Sagar Kaul talked about the ways to verify information being received on various social media platforms and how to break the chain of fake news. Misinformation has always been a very big issue. However, in the present times the use of fake news can be very detrimental even to us, our family members and also our neighbors. So, a lot of fact checking organizations as well as companies is ensuring that people get verified news at their own ends.
The speaker made a presentation for the viewer’s so that they get an idea through visual means about different types of mis-information, messages as well as wording related to covid-19 information. At the end, it suggested ways in dealing with fake news.
The speaker talked about three terms; misinformation, disinformation and malinformation. Misinformation is information that is false, but the person who is disseminating it believes that it is true. For example, the news that honey and lemon in lukewarm water will help cure viruses has been converted into a misinformation because it is just a practice and not a real cure for the virus. The other kind is disinformation, here the main intent is to harm the person and create a law and order situation. It may be to bring down profit of any organization. Here the intent is a lie. For the past 4-5 years, there has been a lot of research in this area and another type of fake information has been categorised, which is malinformation. Malinformation is information which is based on reality and the main motive of it is to inflict harm on a person, organization or country. So, basically these are three broad areas in information disorder.
Going ahead, the speaker said that there will always be an overlap between misinformation and disinformation because misinformation comes from disinformation. However, there is a lot of gap between misinformation and disinformation. In this whole ecosystem, there is a very thin line between all these types of information. For example, if a person is sharing a news via WhatsApp and has an intent of harming other individuals that will be malinformation but if some other individual is forwarding it without an intent of harming the other individual then it will be misinformation.
The speaker then talked about types of information disorder. Propaganda, False Connection, Satire/Parody, Manipulated Content, Fabrication, Imposter Content and Misleading Content are the seven kinds in this area. All these have a really bad impact on different communities as well as organizations and create psychosis in the minds of people. All of these acts have become so easy that anyone can easily attempt to do it. All that is needed is a simple understanding of the motive behind it.
Talking about the areas where we mostly find misinformation, Mr. Sagar mentioned that misinformation mostly appears on websites that look professional. The stories open related to topics for people who are trending at that point of time. Google and social media sites have become an easily available medium to share fake news. The misinformation stories usually have outrageous headlines designed to attract people and get clicked. Whenever there is any law and order situation in the country, old videos get reused by people to promote hatred.
After throwing light on the different kinds of information, the speaker talked about fact checking and what exactly it is? Talking about fact checking, the speaker said a lot of people assume that Fact Checking is a task done by experts in this field. However, it is not a specialized skill set. Rather, it is something which can be done by anyone. Talking technically about the same, it is the act of checking factual assertions in non-fictional text in order to determine the velocity and correctness of the factual statements in the text. Fact-checking is just not limited to validating the fact wellness of text but is also used for verifying photos and videos.
The presentation then focuses on ways to spot fake news or misinformation. The methods are very basic and can be done on an everyday basis. The first step is to consider the source, author as well as the date. The next step is to check the biases and read beyond and indulge further and further. The next step is to check whether it is a joke? The last two steps include asking the experts and reading about the us section.
Next, the speaker talked about ways to verify a photo. The most basic step to do is to go on Google and do reverse research of the picture. After going to the website, verify it. This software is freely available and anyone can do so online. A video can also be similarly checked by doing a reverse search of the screenshot from the video. These steps will help in identifying any malinformation in pictures as well as videos.
Commenting on the same, the facilitator talked about the easy, readymade package of fake news nowadays. Any individual who wants to propagate any agenda can just go use filters or crop a video and put a caption on it and forward it as fake news.Such acts have become equivalent to dirty blogging. Expressing shock over this, the speaker commented that nowadays whenever there is any event in the country, fake news gets mushroomed quickly all over the country because it is so easy.
In conclusion, the speaker mentioned that until and unless new users and consumers change their behaviour, this fight against misinformation cannot end. It’s not a flight against an individual or an organisation or against any country because it’s affecting all of us equally. People should also be aware about the fact that just because some information is shared by any friend it still should not be trusted but should always be verified. Even though we try to change our behaviour, fake news is also changing our behaviour at some point in our lives. Individual biases get strengthened by such news and it is making individuals rigid. Social media has pros as well as cons and it’s upon us how we want to use it.
Key Highlights of the Conversation:
- Fake news has become an everyday phenomenon that individuals without expertise in this field can also manipulate information according to their own propaganda.
- There are three types of information: misinformation, disinformation and misinformation.
- There are seven types of information disorder. Propaganda, False Connection, Satire/Parody, Manipulated Content, Fabrication, Imposter Content and Misleading Content are the seven kinds in this area.
- Misinformation mostly appears on websites that look professional.
- Fact-checking it is the act of checking factual assertions in non-fictional text in order to determine the velocity and correctness of the factual statements in the text.
- Fake photos and videos can be checked through reverse check.