The Spread of Misinformation

If you don’t have time to understand it, please don’t take the time to spread it.

Margarita Diaz

Context. It’s not extra. It’s basic.

About to forward that fascinating piece of news, startling statistic, or shocking quote claiming “research indicates that . . . ?”

Offended at the words or actions of another?

✋🏼 Not so fast!!




What do they often have in common?

Context: the LACK thereof.

Types of Context

🌎 Cultural context:

Something didn’t look or sound “right” to you? First consider that you might have pulled it out of its own cultural context and placed it into yours.

🗣 Quotes out of context:

Failing to consider what was said before and after the quoted words allows the person who selected the quote to tell you what THEY think, instead of letting YOU decide.

📈 Statistics out of context:

Numbers don’t speak for themselves. The person presenting them is using them to tell a story, and a single number or statistic by itself cannot tell a full story. Statistics Out of Context

📊 Research findings out of context:

Quoting research findings without context runs the risk of over-generalizing from the findings and making claims that fall outside the scope of the research/study itself.

So what can we do?

▪️Confirm quotes and claims before you repost them or share them with your friends, networks or on social media. Slow the spread of misinformation.

▪️And consider the following when something looks or sounds unbelievably disturbing:

  • ⚠️ It might not be true (it often isn’t).
  • ⚠️ You are not betraying a cause by seeking to confirm a claim. Diligent investigation of disturbing stories lends more effective support to any cause than blind faith in frightening claims.
  • ⚠️ Fear spreads faster than fact-checking, and we all have biases that may cloud our judgment. Don’t assume someone else took the time to check that story or claim.
  • ⚠️ Confirmation bias predisposes us to believe what confirms our existing beliefs. In other words, we are prone to believe stories that are consistent with our views and opinions. So we might take such stories or claims at face value while only investigating (or denying) stories that contradict our views.
  • ⚠️ It’s easier to create fake videos than it is to detect them. The technology to alter or manipulate videos is more effective than the technology to identify such alterations.
  • ⚠️ The less specific the claim (e.g. sweeping statements by interested parties; anonymous “stories” without identities or precise locations), the wiser we’d be to consider the source and motive.
  • ⚠️ If something about it doesn’t add up, it might not be your math that’s faulty.

Spreading scary stories without fact-checking isn’t news. It’s gossip.

Take the time to investigate scary stories before spreading them and igniting 🔥 more anger, potentially on a false claim.

☝🏼And if the claim is true, now you can vouch for it’s veracity.

In closing . . .

Short attention spans are susceptible to misinformation, but let’s not cater to them. We can pay a little more attention, to get it RIGHT.

If you don’t have time to understand it,

please don’t take the time to spread it.

Context isn’t that “extra” thing you might look at if you have a little spare time.

🧠 It’s a basic component of thinking critically and communicating effectively.

For reflection:

❓When was the last time you gasped at a story and passed it along without checking?

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